Alabama Removes Confederate Flags from Capitol Grounds

June 24th 2015

Sarah Gray

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered that the Confederate battle flag be taken down from the state capitol grounds on Wednesday morning. The flag had previously stood at the Confederate memorial until about 8:20 a.m. ET, when it was quietly removed.

According to AL.com, there was little fan-fair over the removal of the Confederate flag -- no press conference, just two workers taking it down. Bentley was on his way to an appearance when he was asked if he ordered the flag removed. His response was "yes I did."

"Yes, partially this is about that," Bentley said when asked if the removal of the flag was a response to the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. "This is the right thing to do."

The governor also explained that the flag debate "had the potential to become a major distraction" from other policy goals. "We are facing some major issues in this state regarding the budget and other matters that we need to deal with," Bentley stated. "This had the potential to become a major distraction as we go forward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do. And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down."

Bentley is the latest governor to address the battle flag on public lands or items (like license plates) -- though he is the first to actually remove it. His decision comes after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the capitol grounds in Columbia, South Carolina. The Confederate battle flag still flies in Columbia, due to state law and requires a supermajority in the legislature to remove it.

One week ago, six Black women and three Black men were killed in a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina. White supremacy reportedly motivated the accused shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, and is under investigation as a hate crime. A racist, hateful online manifesto was found, along with photos of him posing with the Confederate flag. He also had the battle flag on his license plate. This immediately prompted calls for the Confederate flag to be removed from the South Carolina capitol grounds.​

The battle flag, which is inextricably linked to a past of slavery and subjugation, and has been used by white supremacy groups as a symbol of hatred, has seen immediate backlash over the past week, prompting a swift reaction from lawmakers and retailers alike. Five major retailers -- Walmart, Sears, eBay, Amazon, and Etsy -- all pledged to disallow the purchasing of Confederate flag-related items.

Other lawmakers such as Gov. Terry McAuliffe have instructed administration staff to look into discontinuing state-sponsored license plates with the battle flag insignia. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has called for the moving of a Jefferson Davis statue from the Kentucky state capitol building to a museum, while Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) called for the changing of the Mississippi state flag, which bears the Confederate battle flag.