S.C. Senate acts to move Confederate flag from dome

NAACP dissatisfied with compromise bill

April 14, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina legislators will take the next step to remove the Confederate battle flag from their Statehouse dome without the blessing of the NAACP.

The Senate ratified a compromise bill yesterday by a vote of 36-7. The measure will be assigned to a Statehouse committee and will take about two weeks before debate reaches the House floor.

The Senate plan would move the flag from the dome to the Confederate Soldier Monument on the Statehouse's north lawn, one of the most visible spots in the city.

Nelson Rivers, field operations director for the NAACP national office, said the proposal "adds insult to injury."

The NAACP insists it won't accept any plan that flies the flag, which it says is a symbol of racial oppression, at the Statehouse.

Leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said they will continue the boycott of South Carolina's $14.6 billion tourism industry that the national organization launched Jan. 1 to pressure legislators to remove the flag.

The battle emblem -- which is incorporated into the state flags of Georgia and Mississippi -- has flown in South Carolina since a 1962 Civil War celebration.

"This was a flag of rebellion," said Rep. Fletcher Smith, a member of the Legislature's Black Caucus. "It was a flag based on treason against the United States government. It shouldn't be a flag that's celebrated by the people of South Carolina."

While some black members of the House bristled at the proposal they will receive next week, black senators said there is little choice.

"Currently, there are two options: Leave it where it is or support this compromise," said state Sen. Darrell Jackson, a black Democrat whose vote helped sway several white senators toward the compromise.

"I had to look within myself and decide that I would rather have it where the compromise put it than where it is now," Jackson said.

House Republican leaders dismissed the NAACP's stance.

"We have to resolve this issue as a legislative body in spite of the NAACP," House Speaker David Wilkins said yesterday. "Unfortunately, in my opinion, they've taken themselves out of the loop. They're no longer a player at the table, because they have not been reasonable to any proposals, they haven't been responsive to any proposals." On Tuesday, Wilkins and other House Republican leaders offered a flag bill similar to the one that passed in the Senate.

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