COLUMBIA, SC University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides Monday called for the removal of Confederate flag from a memorial on the State House grounds.
Pastides is among several state leaders - and the first from a major state public university - to call for the flag’s removal, in light of the massacre Wednesday night at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
“It is because, simply, it is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.,” Pastides told of a packed room at Capstone conference room on campus.
Nine African-Americans were killed while attending a Bible study at the historic church. Twenty-one-year-old Dylann Roof, who is white, was arrested and charged; police say he has confessed.
Pastides spoke at a noon memorial service at Capstone to remember the nine victims: State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Cynthia Hurd, 54; and DePayne Middeton-Doctor, 49. Three of the victims, Pinckney, Simmon and Hurd, were graduates of USC.
Pastides joined in renewed arguments for the removal of the battle flag that have spread across South Carolina and the nation in the days following the shooting.
“Is there not some other place for the Confederate flag?” Pastides asked. “Is there not a place that would unify our people rather than divide our people? That would even better facilitate the respect for the soldiers who died defending their homeland by those who wish to honor them?”
“Of course, there is such a place,” Pastides said. “I ask our state leaders who have the authority to address that question to find that place and to move the flag from its current location in front of our seat of government where laws are made, where leadership dwells, to that better place.”
The flag was taken down in 2000 from the Capitol dome, where it had flown since 1962. A hard-fought compromise resulted in its relocation to behind a monument to Confederate dead at the intersection of Gervais and Main streets, arguably one of the state’s the most prominent intersections.