The last Monday in April is designated Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia, which is an official state holiday and state offices are closed for the day.  In this photo, hundreds of Confederate flags adorn graves of soldiers buried in the Confederate section of Oakland Cemetery during Confederate Memorial Day Observance at the Historic Oakland Cemetary in Atlanta on April 26, 2014.
Photo: Chris Hunt
Photo: Chris Hunt

Debates rise about state-sponsored use of Confederate symbol

In the aftermath of shootings that left nine people dead at an historic black church in Charleston, S.C., the presence of a Confederate flag on the grounds of the Capitol has ignited debate nationwide.

Since the fatal shootings and the arrest of 21-year-old Dylann Roof on charges of murder, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the removal of the flag from state grounds, and other other states are taking a new look at the use of the Confederate symbol in flags, state-issued license plates and on display on public grounds. 

“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” Haley said.

Texas won a Supreme Court ruling last week giving it the ability to ban Confederate symbols on license plates, and after backtracking on earlier comments, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said he wants a redesign of state-sponsored license plates featuring the emblem — a change that wouldn't require legislative action.

“It’s an effort to not let this become an issue in Georgia,” Deal said. “It’s time we take a further look at it.”

Georgia's Sons of Confederate Veterans said they plan to "counter this new attack" on their heritage.

 In addition, merchandise vendors including Walmart, Amazon, Sears and eBay are removing the flag from online shops and store shelves.

"We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment -- whether in our stores or on our web site," said Walmart spokesman Brian Nick.

And though it has been a symbol of heritage and ancestry for some, the flag is equally seeen as a symbol of racism and division. In the days since the Charleston shooting, critics of the public display of the Confederate flag are finding new listeners.

In South Carolina, the legislature has agreed to debate the status of the flag that stands on the Capitol grounds. Gov. Haley has said she hopes the flag will be removed by July Fourth. Otherwise, she will call a special session.

Special Report on ajc.com: Confederate Flag in 2015. Read more about the Confederate flag policy issues, business response and reaction.

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