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South Carolina Lawmakers To Debate Moving Confederate Flag

Tom Bullock/WFAE News

South Carolina lawmakers reconvene in Columbia this morning, where they will debate the fate of a Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the capital. Lawmakers have introduced three bills to move the flag to a nearby museum. But for many, this debate is about more than just location.

On a recent sunny morning, Reginald Thomas sat on a park bench, just steps from the grand entrance of the South Carolina Capital.

"I’m 70 years old," he says. "I’m from Spartanburg, South Carolina."

He holds an umbrella, which shelters him from the heat. Occasionally he moves it just enough to block his view of the Confederate flag waving in the breeze. Thomas has been a civil rights activist for more than 50 years, roughly the same amount of time the battle flag has been flown on the Capital grounds.

"I was being jailed and participating in marches and sit-ins when that flag went up," he says. "That’s why it went up because it was in protest of what we were doing at that time."

For Thomas and other African-Americans, the Confederate flag represents just one thing.

"It’s a symbol of hate," he says.

John Miller, who is white, disagrees. Miller says he had relatives that fought on both sides of the Civil War and, for him, the flag represents "heritage."

"This is a war memorial," he says.

These divergent views on whether the Confederate flag is an emblem of hate or a banner of heritage are echoed in a CNN/ORC poll released late last week.

Nationally the poll shows while 33 percent of Americans see the battle flag as a symbol of racism, 57 percent think it’s a symbol of Southern pride.

Dig through the data for an overall breakout of Southerners you see the same results. But the poll found 75 percent of Southern African-Americans see the Confederate flag as a sign of racism.

Nationally, the poll found 55 percent of Americans think Confederate flags should be removed from government property if it’s not in a museum. In the South, that number is 49 percent.

The Charleston Post and Courier has conducted its own poll – of the people that will ultimately decide this issue, South Carolina lawmakers. Two-thirds of both the State House and Senate will need to vote in favor of moving the flag to a museum.

The Post and Courier poll shows the senators are poised to easily pass the bill. And they’ll be the first to debate it.

As for the House, where it will take 82 votes to approve the measure, 83 representatives tell the Post and Courier they will support moving the Confederate flag. But with such a slim margin, anything can happen.