Following GOP Lead, Sanders Calls on S.C. to Remove Confederate Flag | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
Following GOP Lead, Sanders Calls on S.C. to Remove Confederate Flag


Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined a chorus of politicians Monday calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina state capitol grounds.

"The flag is a relic of our nation’s stained racial history," he said in a statement. "It should come down."

Sanders' comments follow last Wednesday's deadly shooting of nine parishioners at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Photos posted online of the alleged perpetrator, Dylan Roof, show him posing with the Confederate flag and other racially charged imagery. Since 2000, when it was removed from the Statehouse dome, the flag has flown above a nearby monument to Confederate soldiers.

“The tragedy in Charleston, as terrible as it is, has given the people of South Carolina an opportunity to finally turn a page on our past," said Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. "The flag belongs in a museum.”

Sanders was hardly the first to issue such a call. His campaign issued a statement on the matter Monday afternoon only after word leaked that two prominent South Carolina Republicans — Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fellow presidential candidate — would do the same later that day.

Seven Days asked Sanders' campaign last Friday and again Monday morning whether he believed the flag should be removed. The campaign did not respond. 

On Sunday, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who is also running for the Democratic nomination, called for the flag's removal in a San Francisco speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has not weighed in on the matter recently, though in 2007 she said that Americans "should have one flag that we all pay honor to."

The issue has gained political resonance in part because South Carolina plays host to the second presidential primary contest. Sanders was scheduled to speak in Charleston on Sunday, but he canceled the trip after last week's shooting.