Ohio's Elected Leaders Join Chorus Condemning Confederate Flag Displays
By Joanna Richards
When a man accused of killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, last week was seen in photos holding a Confederate flag, it sparked a debate -- should the flag be flown on the statehouse grounds?
That debate has since spread across the country, with businesses, southern politicians – and Ohio’s elected leaders – joining a chorus of voices calling for the flag’s removal not only from the grounds of South Carolina’s statehouse, but also from store shelves. Many Confederate monuments are now being eyed for removal, too.
Ohio Governor John Kasich has said it’s up to the people of South Carolina to decide about the flag at their capitol, but he agrees with the state’s Governor Nikki Haley.
“If I were a citizen of South Carolina I'd be for taking it down,” he said.
Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown called the flag a “symbol of hate” that for many represents slavery, and pointed out that many states started using it during the civil rights movement as a sign of defiance.
Brown said he’ll offer an amendment to the highway bill to cut funding to states that offer Confederate-themed license plates.
“We can’t tell people what to do on private property, but we sure can tell them what to do on federal property and make strong suggestions and incentives on local and state property,” Brown said.
Ohio’s Republican Senator Rob Portman, too, said he supports the South Carolina Governor’s position that it’s time for the flag to go from the statehouse there. He said the symbol is tinged with racism.
“The fact is that Confederate flag continues to be a painful reminder of racial oppression and it’s time to move beyond it,” Portman said.
Out of tragedy, though, Portman said a “hopeful discussion” has emerged “about coming together…all Charlestonians but all Americans uniting and continuing to work for equality, continuing the work to put the part of our history that flag represents behind us.”
South Carolina lawmakers have agreed to debate removing the flag from the statehouse grounds. And many Ohio retailers have followed national ones like Sears, Amazon, eBay and Wal-Mart in saying they’ll stop selling the flags.