Confederate Flags removed from AL Capitol grounds, Old House Cha - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Confederate Flags removed from AL Capitol grounds, Old House Chamber

The flags being removed from the Alabama Capitol grounds The flags being removed from the Alabama Capitol grounds
The flags being removed from the Alabama Capitol grounds The flags being removed from the Alabama Capitol grounds
Governor Bently, at the podium, addressed his decision to remove the Confederate Flags from the Alabama Capitol grounds while at an unrelated event in Hackelburg. (Source: Trent Butler/WAFF) Governor Bently, at the podium, addressed his decision to remove the Confederate Flags from the Alabama Capitol grounds while at an unrelated event in Hackelburg. (Source: Trent Butler/WAFF)
While the Confederate flag is no longer flying at the Capitol grounds, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is now flying his own. (Source: WSFA 12 News) While the Confederate flag is no longer flying at the Capitol grounds, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is now flying his own. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
A group of African American men stand near the Confederate Memorial commending Gov. Bentley on the flags' removal. (Source: WSFA 12 News) A group of African American men stand near the Confederate Memorial commending Gov. Bentley on the flags' removal. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) -

The Confederate flags at the Confederate memorial at the Alabama Capitol and the Battle Flag in the Old House Chamber have been removed.

A national debate over Confederate Flags was sparked by a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC where a gunman claimed the lives of nine African Americans attending bible study. Photographs discovered online appear to show the suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, a white male, burning the American Flag while holding the Confederate Battle Flag.

According to the press secretary from Governor Robert Bentley's Office, the Governor ordered the flags removed from the Confederate Memorial on the Capitol grounds so they would not be a distraction to other state issues.

"It is offensive to some people. One type of flag is offensive to some people because unfortunately for some people it's like the swastika," Bentley said.

Bentley told WAFF reporter Trent Butler the future of the flags has not been decided but they may end up at the First White House of the Confederacy. The Governor also says he does not expect negative reaction from his own party after removing the flags.

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Dist 2) issued the following statement: 

"I don't know why Governor [Don] Siegleman [SIC] put it up to begin with, and I support Governor Bentley's decision to take it down."

Representatives Terri Sewell (D-Dist. 7) issued the following statement on Twitter:

"The Confederate flag is a part of the South's past, and that is where it should remain. Thank you @GovernorBentley for removing the flag."

She released this full statement later on Wednesday: 

"The Confederate flag is a part of the South's past, and that is where it should remain. I applaud Governor Bentley for removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State Capitol. His actions demonstrate the need for us to close that chapter of our history. The Confederate flag represents the fight for slavery and is a symbol of hate, not heritage. Our state government should not sanction bigotry but promote unity and respect for the rights of all Alabamaians. It is time to leave behind racist vestiges of our past. The removal of the confederate flag by Southern states, while lauded, is not the remedy for the hatred and racism that led to the fatal church shooting of nine African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina. There is still much work to do in this nation's quest for racial equality. We must be vigilant on every level from how we educate our children, to removing discrepancies in sentencing laws, to eliminating the barriers that restrict access to voting. Lasting legal and political changes like these will lead to substantive behavioral changes."

Former Governor Don Siegelman made a provision in the late 1990s allowing for the historical display of the flags following the restoration of the monument.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard ordered the removal of Confederate Battle Flag from the Old House Chambers. He released the following statement:

"Earlier today I asked the Clerk of the House to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Old House Chamber in the Capitol Building. Given the current environment, it became obvious that the presence of the flag in that historic chamber would become a distraction during the upcoming special session, possibly lead to protracted debate, and avert our attention from the special session's main goal. By taking the proactive action of removing the flag, the Legislature can move forward in several different ways."

There has also been criticism against the move. A Change.org petition has been started to pressure Governor Bentley to return the flags to the capitol grounds.

Michael Williams with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and several others marched around the memorial in protest.

"There will be those who will retaliate. Not Sons of Confederate Veterans. We are hurt our history can't be told and honored but others' can be told and honored," Williams said.

The State Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Gary Carlyle, issued the following statement:

"The Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is very saddened for the murders of nine good citizens in South Carolina. We are praying for the peace and comfort for the families of the victims. There are many untruths being said about our Southern Heritage. Many political people are pushing their agenda in these times of sorrow by misrepresenting Southern symbols to gain an advantage in public opinion."

The Southern Poverty Law Center released this statement on the move:

"The governor has taken an important step by removing the Confederate flags from the Capitol grounds. Now, as he acknowledges, it's time to move beyond symbolism to substance. The legacy, if perhaps not the symbols, of slavery and Jim Crow still hangs heavily over our state. Discrimination is by no means a thing of the past. We must eradicate it in all its forms."

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