Confederate battle flag gone for 1 year: symbol gone but hate remains

Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 10:50 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 11, 2016 at 11:07 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's been one year since the Confederate battle flag was removed from the grounds of the South Carolina State House.

"I think the flag coming down was essentially a miracle," said SC Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester. She said if the massacre hadn't happened at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, the flag would still be flying on the north side of the State House.

Horne was part of what it took to bring down the flag. As debate dragged on through multiple amendments, Horne said she needed to remind her colleagues why they were there in the first place.

"It was 8:00 in the evening and no one had mentioned  --  no one who had debated the bill at all had mentioned the nine victims at Mother Emanuel AME Church," she said.

Emotions were high with a lot at stake.

"Blood was on the floor, so to speak, during that debate," she said. "I just felt compelled. I didn't know what I was going  to say. And I just let my emotions take over and said what I felt inspired to say."

It was a turning point.

"We started off this morning. I told everybody that I wanted to hear the dialogue. We've heard the dialogue. What we heard was talk of the Confederacy. What we heard was talk of dead soldiers. What we did not hear is talk of the nine who were slaughtered in the church. That's what we waited on. It''s passed that time. Representative Horne has spoke. It is time that we heed her call," Democrat House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said that day during the debate.

Two days later Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill and the flag came down.

Coming off a year of hurt and healing, the State House is now void of a symbol that to many, represented hate.

"We did something to make young black kids in the state of South Carolina feel good about themselves," said Dr. Lonnie Randolph Jr., who spent 15 years as head of the SC NAACP to get the flag removed. "For your state to tell you you're not respected; you are not representative of the community you live in. There's a lot to be said for what was accomplished."

Randolph instituted statewide economic sanctions that remained in place for more than a decade until the State agreed to remove the flag.

"We had about 300-400 organizations that canceled events in South Carolina every year," he said

Randolph said family reunions and conferences were held elsewhere. It also took a toll on athletics.

"The NCAA lifted its boycott immediately before the bill was even signed. So we're going to be able to host tournaments and our athletes deserve that," Horne said. "It's great for business, great for our economy. It's great for our image as our state."

Randolph said the accomplishments are progress but only the symbol was removed. He said the change isn't finished.

"The light in South Carolina doesn't shine on people," he said. "I want to see the light educationally, opportunities, job opportunities, summer employment. That light should shine on everybody. I don't see that . Let's go make it happen."

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