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Politics

SC Senate Debate Begins On Removing Confederate Flag

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In South Carolina, some state senators are making passionate calls to move the Confederate flag off the Capitol grounds. Senator Vincent Sheheen introduced a bill to do that. On the Senate floor today, he said the debate over the flag shows that racial tensions are still a problem in South Carolina.

"We still have a very serious culture of division within our state. And it's a culture of division that we as leaders have to take stands to change."

The Senate will continue debating his bill this afternoon. Because of a previous law concerning the flag's placement on the Capitol grounds, two-thirds of lawmakers in both the state Senate and House would have to vote to move it.

Update 1:55 p.m.

State Senator Lee Bright has been offering bumper stickers that read: keep your hands off my flag. The Republican lawmaker says the Confederate flag and those who display it are not responsible for the church killings in Charleston. 

"I don't think you can blame an entire Southern way of life on one lunatic," he says.

Others are ready to move the flag from the Capitol grounds to a nearby museum. State Senator Larry Martin, also a Republican, says it is an important part of South Carolina history, "but it needs to be just that – part of our history."

"It isn't part of our future," Martin says. 

Martin says it's clear that flag does not represent all South Carolinians. He asks his fellow lawmakers to remember that as they debate it.

Update 3 p.m.

Part today's debate has focusing on why the flag didn't go up until the early 1960s. Republican state Senator Larry Martin says it went up in 1961 to honor the Civil War centennial. But he says it stayed up for another reason – resistance to the Civil Rights movement.

"Today the heritage that the flag stands for is really for the 1960s. If you want to get right down to it, it has more to do with what was going on in the 1960s as opposed to the 1860s."

Martin says the shootings at a church in Charleston have changed the way he views the flag flying on the Statehouse grounds.

WFAE's Ben Bradford is in Columbia and will have more coverage this afternoon.