South Carolina may still spend $3.2 million to display Confederate flags taken down from statehouse
South Carolina could spend up to $3.6m to display the Confederate flag that once flew on statehouse grounds in Columbia and was taken down after it became a fixed point of outrage following the killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston in June.
The proposal is less than the original $5.2m proposed by a consultant for the Confederate relic room and military museum commission, which was tasked with housing the flag after it was taken down in July .
The flag has long been controversial , with activists pushing for the flag to be removed since it was placed on the capitol dome in the 1960s. Some defended the flag as part of the south’s heritage, while others believe it to be a racist symbol, since South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in defense of slavery and join the Confederacy during the American civil war.
Related: South Carolina’s Confederate flag comes down as history of hate meets modernity
The standard was removed from the statehouse dome to a flagpole across from the building’s entrance in 2001. But the drive to completely remove it from statehouse grounds was renewed in June after a white 21-year-old gunned down nine black people attending a bible study class in a historic Charleston church.
After the shooting, state governor Nikki Haley called for it to be removed and president Barack Obama said it belonged in a museum. Amid the renewed controversy, activist Bree Newsome scaled the flag and took it down herself .
Newsome was arrested, and the flag was returned to the flagpole, but only temporarily as lawmakers were able to push forward legislation to have it taken down and housed in the state’s Confederate relic room and military museum.
This museum’s commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to bring the proposal down by nearly $2m from the proposed $5.6m. The funds will go towards an exhibition that houses the flag and honors the 24,000 South Carolina soldiers who died in the civil war while fighting for the Confederate army.
The commission cut costs by eliminating items that allocated money towards repairing a leaky roof, converting a courtyard into a public space and building costs.
But relic room director Allen Roberson acknowledged that this will not resolve the controversy surrounding the flag.
“We are the institution to resolve this,” he told the Charlotte Observer. “And this is a solution to resolve the problem as best we can.”
He said that an expansion was needed to accommodate requirements laid out in the legislative order permitting the flag to be taken down. The proposal must be presented by 1 January to legislators who will then deliberate its merits.
Republican state representative Chris Corley, like other lawmakers , is concerned about how much money is being allocated to display the flag, especially at a time when the state is working to repair damage from intense October flooding .
“This may blow everybody’s mind and throw everybody for a loop, but I am not voting for that much money to go into it,” Corley said.
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