Tag Archives: confederate flag

Dylann Roof sentenced to death

A jury on Jan. 10 condemned white supremacist Dylann Roof to death for the hate-fueled killings of nine black parishioners at a Bible study meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.

The same jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, for the shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours.

Roof stared straight ahead as the judge read through the jury’s verdict findings before announcing his death sentence, local media reported on social media.

Roof, who represented himself for the penalty phase, was unrepentant during his closing argument earlier in the day. He told jurors he still felt the massacre was something he had to do and did not ask that his life be spared.

“Today’s sentencing decision means that this case will not be over for a very long time,” Roof’s lawyers, who represented him for the guilt phase, said in a statement after the verdict was announced.

Roof still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.

Attorney general statement on the sentencing

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the following statement on the sentencing of Dylann Roof:

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Storm Roof sought out and opened fire on African-American parishioners engaged in worship and bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

He did so because of their race.  And he did so to interfere with their peaceful exercise of religion.

The victims in the case led lives as compassionate civic and religious leaders; devoted public servants and teachers; and beloved family members and friends.  They include a young man in the bloom of youth and an 87-year-old grandmother who still sang in the church choir.

We remember those who have suffered, and especially those that lost their lives: Cynthia Graham Hurd, 54;

Susie Jackson, 87;

Ethel Lance, 70;

Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49;

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41;

Tywanza Sanders, 26;

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74;

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45;

and Myra Thompson, 59.

Today, a jury of his peers considered the actions Roof took on that fateful day, and they rendered a verdict that will hold him accountable for his choices.

No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel.

And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand.  But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston — and the people of our nation — with a measure of closure.

We thank the jurors for their service, the people of Charleston for their strength and support, and the law enforcement community in South Carolina and throughout the country for their vital work on this case.


Racine man accused of going into home to remove Confederate flag

Authorities say a Racine man was arrested after forcing his way inside a home to take down a Confederate flag placed in a window.

The Journal Times of Racine reports 37-year-old Tajaun Boatner has been charged on counts including criminal trespassing and misdemeanor theft.

A criminal complaint says a woman and Boatner told police he had politely asked her to remove the flag from her kitchen window, and she moved it to another window.

According to the complaint, both started yelling, and the woman used a racial slur toward Boatner. Authorities say Boatner pushed the woman down and walked into the house to remove the flag. According to authorities, Boatner later argued with police and struggled to avoid being handcuffed.

A message seeking comment was sent to an attorney listed as representing Boatner.

Country music struggles with its Confederate flag past

Country artists are struggling to articulate their feelings about the Confederate flag’s history and symbolism amid heightened debate following the recent massacre at a South Carolina church.

The killing of nine churchgoers on June 17 renewed calls for the emblem to be removed from government displays — both chambers of South Carolina’s legislature and Gov. Nikki Haley agreed on legislation that brought the flag down from its place on the statehouse grounds on July 10 — as well as from other aspects of American culture, including on television, in sports and in popular art.

Mainstream country music has been quietly distancing itself from the Confederate flag for decades, with many adopting the U.S. flag instead, the genre’s own history paralleling changing public sentiment.

“You won’t find it being used by young country acts today, partly because it doesn’t mean the same thing to them,” said Robert K. Oermann, author and columnist for MusicRow magazine. “Partly because some of them aren’t Southern and partly because if you want to appeal to a national audience, why would you do that?”

The Confederate flag was not commonly used by country artists until the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s and ‘80s, when it was adopted by some Southern country and rock artists who identified as outlaw musicians appealing to blue-collar fans, Oermann said.

David Allan Coe, Hank Williams Jr., the country group Alabama and rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd all used the flag on stage or in merchandise, or referenced the flag or the Confederacy in song lyrics.

But the symbol quickly fell out of favor as country music became more commercial in the 1980s and the industry sought to reach wider audiences in the suburbs and urban areas outside of the South.

Only a small number of country artists have been willing to speak on the issue in the weeks since the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting. John Rich, of the duo Big and Rich, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he agreed with the call to remove the Confederate flag from its pole outside the South Carolina state Capitol. Charlie Daniels wrote a long column on his website addressing the most recent controversy over the flag.

“The Confederate battle flag was a sign of defiance, a sign of pride, a declaration of a geographical area that you were proud to be from,” Daniels wrote. “That’s all it is to me and all it ever has been to me.”

Daniels said he opposes racism and believes that every person, regardless of skin color, deserves the exact same rights and advantages.

“Unfortunately, the Confederate battle flag has been adopted by hate groups — and individuals like Dylann Roof (charged with murder in the church shootings) — to supposedly represent them and their hateful view of the races,” Daniels said on his website.

Several country artists didn’t respond or their representatives declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, including Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Charley Pride, Colt Ford and Hank Williams Jr.

Country artists take a big risk in addressing controversial social and political issues. Just two years ago, Brad Paisley was criticized for recording a song called “Accidental Racist” with rapper LL Cool J that ultimately sought to explore racial tensions but came across as naive and ill-advised.

Diane Pecknold, an associate professor of women and gender studies at the University of Louisville who has written extensively about the history of country music, said country music has a strong association to patriotism and promoting viewpoints that are inclusive of all races and cultures, noting that Paisley, Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks all have songs that are explicitly anti-racist.

“You can criticize them for being naive or being post-racial in a way that ignores contemporary and institutionalized racism,” Pecknold said. “You can criticize them for failing to conceptualize it in a meaningful way, but you still have to say that they are talking about race and an ideal of America that is anti-racist.”

Rucker, a black artist who hails from Charleston, chose to communicate directly to his fans on Twitter: “Incredibly proud of my city for handling this tragedy with love. Thankful to be a part of a community that can come together in a time of need.”

The Confederate flag comes down in South Carolina today

South Carolina officials were preparing on July 10 to quietly and quickly remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse where it has flown for more than a half-century.

The state planned a simple, short ceremony at 10 a.m. EST to remove the rebel banner, which was surrounded in its final hours by ropes and barricades.

“We will bring it down with dignity and we will make sure it is stored in its rightful place,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said.

Authorities will escort a special van used to transport historical artifacts that will take the flag to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. There, it eventually will be housed in a multimillion-dollar shrine lawmakers promised to build as part of a compromise to get the bill ordering the flag’s removal through the House.

“No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel pain,” Haley said early on July 10 on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel like they don’t belong.”

South Carolina’s leaders first flew the battle flag over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. It remained there to represent official opposition to the civil rights movement.

Decades later, mass protests against the flag by those who said it was a symbol of racism and white supremacy led to a compromise in 2000 with lawmakers who insisted that it symbolized Southern heritage and states’ rights. The two sides came to an agreement to move the flag from the dome to a 30-foot pole next to a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse.

Thousands of people showed up for the transfer. Flag supporters shouted, “Off the dome and in your face!” at protesters who wanted the flag gone, a line of police in special gear separating the two sides. A pair of Citadel cadets, one white and one black, lowered the flag from the dome as a dozen Confederate re-enactors marched to the brand new flagpole and raised the rebel banner.

Organizers didn’t give out details of what will happen Friday, but said the removal will be short, simple and dignified. The flagpole will also be taken down, but no time frame has been announced for that.

The flag is coming down 23 days after the massacre of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight others inside Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Haley signed the bill with 13 pens. Nine of them went to the families of the victims.

Authorities say they believe the killings were racially motivated. By posing with the Confederate flag before the shootings, suspect Dylann Storm Roof, who has not yet entered a plea to nine counts of murder, convinced some that the flag’s reputation for white supremacy and racial oppression had trumped its symbolism of Southern heritage and ancestral pride.

“People say he was wrapped in hate, that he was a hateful person,” said Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg. “Well, his hate was wrapped in the cloak of that Confederate flag. That is why that flag is coming down.”

Supporters of the flag were disappointed, but resigned.

“It’s just like the conclusion of the war itself,” said Rep. Mike Pitts, who submitted several amendments to fly a different flag on the pole that all failed. “The issue was settled, and the nation came back together to move on.”

States across the nation are moving on without their Confederate symbols. The rebel flag is gone from the Alabama Capitol, and the U.S. House voted that it can no longer fly at historic federal cemeteries in the Deep South. A city council committee in Memphis wants to move a statue and the remains of Civil War hero and slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest out of a prominent park, and officials in Alaska want a new moniker for a U.S. Census district named for Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton.

Haley said the removal of symbols that have become divisive is the right thing to do for the family members of those killed at Charleston’s Emanuel AME.

“We saw the families show the world what true grace and forgiveness look like,” Haley said. “That set off an action of compassion by people in South Carolina and all over this country. They stopped looking at their differences and started looking at their similarities.”

Protesters clash over Confederate flag issue at Phoenix Walmart

Things got noisy outside a west Phoenix Walmart after the company’s decision to remove Confederate flag merchandise attracted scores of protesters and counter-protesters.

The Arizona Republic reports that Jon Ritzheimer organized a July 5 protest of Walmart’s decision. Ritzheimer is a former Marine who staged a contentious rally outside a Phoenix mosque in May.

His group of self-proclaimed “patriots,” some of them armed, waved the rebel flag alongside the American one while chanting “U-S-A.”

Counter-protesters clashed with Ritzheimer’s group. They called the flag racist and lauded Walmart’s decision to remove it from shelves.

An unofficial police count estimates that the event drew about 100 people. Phoenix police spokesman Lt. Randy Force says 11 officers were at the event after Walmart management called police.

Minnesota firefighter suspended for flying Confederate flag in parade

A Minnesota volunteer firefighter was suspended on July 5 for flying a Confederate flag from an engine that he drove in a holiday parade, and he said he expects to be asked to resign.

Brian Nielsen, 43, drove a Hartland Fire Department truck in the Third of July Parade in the southern Minnesota city of Albert Lea, the Albert Lea Tribune first reported. Nielsen, who’s been with the department for about 10 years, flew both the Confederate and American flags from the back of the truck. He said neither his town nor his department had anything to do with it.

Nielsen said he’s not for slavery, but did it because he was fed up with political correctness.

“It was my decision and I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal, but boy was I wrong,” Nielsen told The Associated Press.

He said Hartland Fire Chief Trent Wangen suspended him pending an investigation.

“More than likely I’ll probably be asked to step down,” Nielsen said. “I respect that and will do that if they want.”

The killings of nine people at a historically black South Carolina church last month have sparked debate nationwide about the appropriateness of displaying the Confederate flag. The man charged in the shooting deaths had posted photographs of himself with the flag on social media.

Nielsen said he didn’t think flying the flag would draw as much flak as it has. It’s been the subject of critical tweets and Facebook postings. He said a woman wearing a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party patch came up to him and criticized the flag before the parade, but other spectators stood up and clapped as the truck flying both the U.S. and Confederate flags passed by.

the parade was organized by the Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce. Its executive director, Randy Kehr, said the display was “unfortunate” but within the firefighter’s rights. He told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis he didn’t know ahead of time that the truck would carry the Confederate flag, and probably would have respectfully asked Nielsen not to fly it if he had known.

Nielsen said he was told the Chamber of Commerce is having a special meeting on the subject Tuesday. He said he’s willing to go and make a public apology.

“I’m sorry for what I caused my town, the Hartland Fire Department and even my family,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen, who is white, said he’s not a racist.

“I don’t see race,” he said. “Black and white are the same to me. My belief is that ‘politically correct’ is going too far.”

GOP presidential candidates and Confederate flags

When the Third Reich fell, Allied Forces immediately banned the swastika from public display. They knew that letting it remain would give Nazi sympathizers a rallying symbol and provide a measure of acceptance to the subhuman atrocities committed under Adolf Hitler.

That’s exactly the effect that the flag of the Confederate States of America had on the South. One hundred and fifty years after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union, his flag continues to fly over public buildings and monuments throughout the Bible Belt. The long-dead Confederate leaders who ripped the nation apart in their quest to continue enslaving an entire race of people continue to be honored with plaques, honorary highway signs and local holidays. 

Despite the unspeakable horrors of slavery, millions of Southerners have fabricated a revision of the Old South that’s all moonlight and magnolias. They say the Confederate flag uplifts them by honoring their unique cultural traditions and heritage. They speak as if flaunting a symbol that represents the lowest depths of hell to millions of African-Americans is no more harmful than a chicken-fried steak served with a side of grits.

Post-Civil War leaders failed to foresee the perils of ignoring the Confederate flag. It would become an emblem of the racist culture that nurtured the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society; that inspired thousands of rapes, tortures and lynchings of African-Americans; that propelled the apartheid society of Jim Crow; that institutionalized discrimination and racist violence; and that ultimately gave rise to the neo-Nazi and anti-government militia movements threatening our nation today.

To watchdog groups that track hate activity, it was shocking but not surprising when Confederate glorifier Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston, South Carolina, church and massacred three African-American men and six women attending a Bible study class. In reaction, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag near her state’s capitol to be removed. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on June 24 ordered a Confederate battle flag and three other symbols of the Confederacy removed from the Capitol grounds in Montgomery. Wal-Mart, eBay, and other retailers announced they were removing products with the symbol from sale.

It’s a rare moment in history when enlightenment suddenly casts so many beams, creating an opportunity for positive change. The unthinkable killings in Charleston provided just such a moment. 

It was an especially ripe moment for the Republican presidential candidates to stand up and affirm their opposition to racism. After all the political work they’ve done to eliminate civil rights laws and make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote, they could have risen and called for an end to flying the Confederate flag on public buildings — just as every Democratic candidate has.

But most of them said nothing until Haley first cleared the way. And even then, most of them attenuated their support for Haley by saying that banning the flag was not a moral imperative but rather something that each state must decide on its own.

Out of the 15 Republican candidates we tracked, only four — Jeb Bush, Paul Rand, George Pataki and Donald Trump — made and stuck with definitive calls for removal of the flags.

Many of the same GOP candidates who seemed to be competing to issue the strongest condemnation of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of marriage equality lacked either the backbone or conviction — or both — to condemn the nation’s most enduring symbol of slavery.

It’s difficult to imagine how such a field of candidates plans to carry the electorate in 2016, when they still can’t honestly confront the issues of 1860. We already knew that the current Republican Party would take the nation backward, but until now we failed to realize how far.

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Confederate flag supporters rally in Alabama

Confederate flags returned to the cradle of the Confederacy yesterday as hundreds of flag supporters arrived at Alabama’s Capitol to protest the removal of four rebel flags from a Confederate monument next to the building where the Confederacy was formed.

Standing at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps, where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. led a march for civil rights, Tim Steadman said it wasn’t right to remove the flags.

“Right now, this past week with everything that is going on, I feel very much like the Jews must have felt in the very beginning of the Nazi Germany takeover,” he said. “I mean I do feel that way, like there is a concerted effort to wipe people like me out, to wipe out my heritage and to erase the truths of history.”

Days earlier, Gov. Robert Bentley had ordered the flags taken down from the 1898 monument amid national controversy about whether Confederate symbols should be displayed on state grounds.

Standing next to Steadman was Ronnie Simmons, who wore a T-shirt with the face of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis, who was elected as the first and only Confederate president inside the historic Alabama Senate chamber inside the Capitol in 1861, once lived a block away in the First White House of the Confederacy while Montgomery was briefly the capital.

Simmons said Bentley was a “scallywag,” referring to a term used in the years after the Civil War during the Reconstruction period to describe white southerners who collaborated with northerners.

“It’s alienating the white people in the state of Alabama when you take something down in a historic setting,” Simmons said. “If scallywag Bentley thinks he’s improved race relations in this state, he’s as crazy as a bed bug.”

Some attendees dressed in Civil War attire while others arrived in motorcycle apparel with Confederate flag patches sewn into vests. Flags flew on motorcycles playing “Sweet Home Alabama” and rested on the shoulders of men in Civil War uniforms. One woman held a sign that said “Southern Lives Matter,” a variation of the “Black Lives Matter” phrase that became a rallying call after the shootings of unarmed black men in multiple states.

Many in the white audience said they feared their heritage was being taken away.

Sherry Butler Clayton said the flag is a way to honor her relatives tied to the Confederacy.

“I have many, many ancestors,” she said. “A lot of them are in unknown graves up North where they died on the battlefield. A lot of them came back maimed. And it’s just a way. I don’t hate anyone. I love all people. My daughter-in-law is black and I love her and I love her family. So it’s not a black/white issue. It’s a heritage issue.”

Bentley has received broad support for his decision to remove the flags. In an open letter to the governor, state Sen. Vivian Figures praised him for his action. Figures, who is black, said supporters of the Confederate battle flag “have used the guise of ‘heritage’ to mask the true meaning of the flag.”

“That flag is a message of hatred, bigotry, negativity, white supremacy, shackles, whips, segregation, church bombings, beatings, lynchings, and assassinations,” she wrote.

Event organizer Mike Williams said he was pleased with the turnout. Williams, who was one of the first protesters to arrive at the monument after the flags were removed, said he hopes anyone organizing similar events in southern states will keep rallies “about heritage and not hate.”

Scott Walker says Nikki Haley asked him to hold back opinion on Confederate flag removal

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said on June 24 that he didn’t initially offer his opinion on whether the Confederate flag should be taken down from the Capitol grounds in South Carolina because Gov. Nikki Haley asked him to hold off speaking about it.

Haley’s spokeswoman Chaney Adams confirmed the two Republicans spoke over the weekend, but he did not say that Haley asked Walker not to comment.

Walker called Haley on June 20 to check in and let her know he was getting questions about the flag, Adams said. Haley told Walker that she had a plan to handle it and that it was important that the movement come from inside the state and not outside, Adams said.

The flag’s placement on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse became a topic of debate after Dylann Roof, 21, was accused of shooting nine parishioners during a Bible study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston.

The suspect held the Confederate flag in a photograph on a website and displayed the flags of defeated white-supremacist governments in Africa on his Facebook page.

Walker on June 20, after speaking to religious conservatives in Washington, told reporters that the debate over whether the flag ought to remain on public land in South Carolina should be at the state level.

“I just think before I or anyone else weighs in on anything to do with policy, whether it’s this or any other policy decisions, we should honor the dead and the families by allowing them to bury their loved ones,” Walker went on to say. “And then you could perfectly ask me that question at some point in the next week or two when that’s done.”

Walker was criticized for not taking a position on whether the flag should stay or go.

On June 22, after Haley called for removing the flag, Walker said on Twitter that he was glad Haley was taking that position and he supported her.

“She asked me to wait,” Walker claimed. “I was fully prepared to say that it’s a state issue, but if it were me I would take it down. But I waited until she had a chance to get out front.”

One Wisconsin Now: ‘Walker is whistling Dixie’ on Confederate flag debate

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to declare his candidacy for president later this summer, declined over the weekend to call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds in South Carolina in the aftermath of the racially-motivated killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston.

Walker said the matter was a “state issue.”

And the progressive group One Wisconsin Now responded.

Executive director Scot Ross said in a news release, “Scott Walker is whistling Dixie when he calls the flying of the Confederate flag on government property a ‘state issue.’ We’ve heard that rhetoric before — it was used to defend the worst abuses of power and shameful discrimination in our nation’s history.

“There’s no denying the racism and oppression represented by the Confederate flag and there’s no defense for its display in public, on public property. It is appalling that Scott Walker is so blinded by his political ambition he’s willing to abide the flying of a flag that symbolizes racism, hatred and oppression.”