Some South Carolina legislators are seeking a way to remove flag and a window with a view of it is blocked at the rotunda, site of Pinckney’s visitation


As mourners prepare to view the body of South Carolina senator and pastor Clementa Pinckney lying in state in Columbia, the debate rages over whether the Confederate flag beloved by his alleged killer should be allowed to fly during his wake.

Pinckney was the pastor of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston where, last Wednesday, he was holding a bible study when he and eight parishioners were shot dead by racist and alleged gunman Dylann Roof.

Pinckney’s open-casket visitation is scheduled for between 1pm and 5pm on Wednesday inside the capitol rotunda. He is believed to be the first black man to lie under the capitol rotunda since at least reconstruction in the 1860s, and the first person to lie there since governor Carroll Cambell in 2005, the Associated Press reported. A horse-drawn caisson will bring Pinckney’s body to the capitol.

Pinckney was well-known in the state, representing Jasper County as a Democrat in the state legislature for 18 years and preaching since the age of 13. He helped build support for legislation to mandate police body-worn cameras as an accountability tool, after a North Charleston police officer fatally shot 50-year-old black South Carolinian Walter Scott , and was described as a “ political spirit lifter ” by observers.

Some state legislators in South Carolina were reportedly looking for a loophole to remove the Confederate flag Wednesday, the Post and Courier reported, though a large black drape has already been placed over a rotunda window with a view of the Confederate flag outside, according to the Associated Press.

The flag, flown during the secession of the south in 1861, is believed by many to be a symbol of the worst of the south’s history of racial oppression. State legislators on Tuesday introduced a bill to debate removing the flag, which requires the agreement of both houses of the state legislature, and Republican governor Nikki Haley , who has called for it to be taken down.

In Alabama, Republican governor Robert Bentley ordered the flag removed from that state’s capitol building Wednesday morning. Legislators in Mississippi have also proposed removing the flag.

Republican South Carolina state representative William Chumley told CNN on Tuesday that his constituents still wanted the Confederate flag flown over the statehouse.

“I think that misuse and miseducation of that flag has probably pushed it to this point,” said Chumley. In the same interview, Chumley pivoted to a common pro-firearm talking point, the so-called “good guys with guns” argument.

“These people sat in there waiting their turn to be shot. That’s sad, and somebody in there with the means of self-defense could have stopped this, and we’d have less funerals than we’re having,” Chumley said. “Why didn’t somebody just do something? I mean, why, you’ve got one skinny person shooting a gun.”

The comments have since been widely condemned. Chumley is also one of three campaign co-chairs in South Carolina for Republican Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

Pinckney’s funeral is scheduled for Friday, where president Obama is expected to give the eulogy. First lady Michelle Obama and vice-president Joe Biden are also scheduled to attend.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015