As controversy rages over whether the Confederate battle flag should be allowed to remain flying on the grounds of the state capitol in South Carolina after a massacre at a black church in Charleston, some are are calling for different way to treat the Civil War era symbol: Burn it.
In an op-ed Friday in the Detroit Free Press, former New York Times reporter Joe Lapointe argues that’s the only solution. “In that South Carolina will never willingly take down the flag, the time has come for opponents to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and burn the Confederate flag — at the state Capitol in South Carolina, in front of the White House,” and elsewhere, he writes.
“Of course, burning the Confederate flag would be disrespectful. That is exactly the point,” writes Lapointe, who is also former msnbc producer. “There’s no need to debate the Confederate flag issue anymore. In honor of [alleged Charleston shooter] Dylann Roof, it’s time to burn, baby, burn.”
And he’s not alone.
On Friday, a small group of activists people burned two confederate flags on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, just outside the building where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted.
“If you burn a Confederate flag, to some people, that’s painful,” Mannwell Glenn, a black activist and former talk radio host said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But whatever you’re feeling about us burning your sacred flag, we feel that about 100 times more when nine people are killed.”
Flag burning is protected under the First Amendment, and Glenn’s compatriots checked with a lawyer before engaging in the demonstration.
Last month, a black artist from Florida staged a ceremonial funeral, complete with cremation and burial, of the Confederate flag in 11 Southern states simultaneously, with the aim of symbolically doing away with the symbol of the Confederacy.
“The image [of the flag] brings so much toxic memories of the American experience, particularly from the African-American point of view,” artist John Sims told the Orlando Sentinel. “There’s a notion of ‘Southern Heritage’ and who owns [that], but a very important part of Southern culture is the African-American experience…. The Confederate flag is a flag of terror from its use by the Klan in the ’20s to the anti-civil-rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s.”
The ceremonies offended defenders of the flag, according to the Wall Street Journal, but groups like Sons of Confederate Veterans declined to get directly involved. Meanwhile, there is also now a Facebook group which has called for a National “Burn The Confederate Flag” Day to be held on June 27.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Saturday became the latest public figure to join the call for South Carolina to take down the flag from the state capitol grounds. “To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims,” Romney tweeted.Meanwhile, current GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush took to Facebook Saturday to note that as governor, he moved the Confederate flag from the Florida to “a museum where it belonged.” However, he didn’t explicitly call on South Carolina to do the same. Instead, he wrote that “following a period of mourning,” there should be “a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward and I’m confident they will do the right thing.”
The Stars and Bars appears to have been a important symbol for Roof. A website apparently created by Roof was discovered Saturday and shows the accused murderer posing with the flag. He was also photographed sitting on the hood of car with a Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate, which features the flag.