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Movement Against Confederate Symbol Grows

  • VOA News

Some of the world's biggest retailers and e-commerce sites are pulling Confederate flag merchandise, while prominent lawmakers in several states push for the removal of Confederate symbols following last week's deadly shooting at a historic black church in the southern U.S. state of South Carolina.

Reuters quoted a spokeswoman from China's Alibaba saying Wednesday the company would withdraw items with Confederate imagery.

The move follows announcements by American competitors Amazon, Google, eBay, Wal-Mart and Sears that they too would no longer sell products featuring the Civil War-era symbol.

South Carolina has returned to the focus of efforts to scrub what began as the flag of the southern states that broke away at the start of the country's Civil War in 1861 and came to serve as a symbol of those opposed to the civil rights movement a century later.

South Carolina was the first state to secede, and flew the flag above its statehouse from 1962 until 2000 when it was moved under pressure to another area of the site. Lawmakers voted Tuesday to consider removing the flag entirely after an appeal from Governor Nikki Haley, who said that while many in her state respect the flag, others see it as a reminder of a "brutally oppressive past."

The suspect in last week's shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston that left nine people dead has appeared in pictures holding the Confederate flag.

The killings have also prompted other states to revisit their own relationship to Confederate symbols. The legacy of the war that divided the nation includes statues in statehouses, special license plates drivers can purchase that feature the symbols, as well as numerous roads and schools named after generals and politicians from the Confederate States of America.

The flag for the state of Mississippi incorporates the Confederate symbol in its upper left corner, and the state's house speaker is calling for it to be removed. In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered the Confederate flag license plates to be replaced.

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, lawmakers say they no longer want a bust of Confederate general and white supremacist leader Nathan Bedford in the state senate. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell has also called for a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis to be removed from the state capitol.

People in South Carolina and other states who want to keep flying the flag say the banner is about history, pride and family heritage, not linked to the issue of slavery that was one of several factors that launched the Civil War. They condemn racists who they say have corrupted the flag, turning it into a sign of hate.

Those who want to get rid of the flag say no one can escape the fact that it once stood for a fight to keep slavery legal and is a constant reminder of white supremacy.

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