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South Carolina lowered the Confederate battle flag that had flown outside its State House this morning and moved it to a Civil War museum nearby. The law calling for the flag's removal progressed quickly through the state legislature and was signed by the governor yesterday.
While many had called for the controversial flag's removal since it began flying on capitol grounds over 50 years ago, debate intensified following the racially-motivated killing of nine black parishioners in a historically black church last month.
Raising the Flag
The Confederate flag was originally raised above the state capitol building as part of a Civil War Centennial celebration in 1961. The next year, lawmakers passed a resolution to keep it there, until the state senate voted to move the flag to capitol's front lawn in 2000. That bill also prohibited removing or lowering the flag without additional legislation.
It was that ban that re-ignited debate about the flag following the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston. As the flags atop the state capitol building in Columbia were lowered to half-mast, the Confederate flag remained atop its pole a few hundred feet away, a move seen as symbolic of the animus that motivated the alleged church shooter, Dylann Roof.
Lowering the Flag
Ultimately, the bill to remove the Confederate flag, Senate Bill 897, was enacted swifter than many had imagined: Gov. Nikki Haley signed the removal act just three weeks after the shooting. The bill designates that the only "flags authorized to be flown atop the dome of the State House and in the chambers of the Senate and House of Representatives are the United States Flag and the South Carolina State Flag," and provides for the removal and transport of the Confederate flag "to the Confederate Relic Room for appropriate display."
Does the Bill Regulate Sale or Possession of the Flag?
The bill very narrow. It does not regulate personal possession, sale, or display of the Confederate flag.
Although it remains legal for citizens to own and fly the flag, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Google, Kmart, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart, have all voluntarily pulled Confederate flags and flag merchandise from their stores. Many major flag manufacturers have already announced that they will stop selling the Confederate flag.