The S.C. House will not consider changing or removing other public monuments in the wake of the General Assembly’s removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds last week, Speaker Jay Lucas said Thursday.
“The South Carolina House of Representatives will not engage in or debate the specifics of public monuments, memorials, state buildings, road names or any other historical markers,” Lucas, R-Darlington, said in a statement.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley urged lawmakers to remove the flag from the State House grounds after a racially motivated church shooting that killed nine in June. The House and Senate passed a bill last week to furl the flag, which was lowered Friday.
Lucas said lawmakers — House members, in particular — made it abundantly clear during the flag debate that the only issue they were willing to discuss was the battle flag’s placement at the State House.
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“We reached a swift resolution last week and, in doing so, put an end to this discussion,” he said. “Debate over this issue will not be expanded or entertained throughout the remainder of my time as speaker.”
Discussion of removing other monuments has centered on a State House monument to white supremacist “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, a former S.C. governor, U.S. senator and member of an all-white, post-Civil War militia responsible for lynching African-Americans.
The debate over honoring Tillman also has reached the campuses of Clemson and Winthrop universities, institutions that Tillman played a role in founding. Both schools have buildings named for Tillman.
The debate also has spread to a Greenwood war memorial that separates slain soldiers by race and a Confederate Naval Jack flag that flies in a chapel at The Citadel.
The S.C. Heritage Act blocks changes to both.
The Heritage Act protects all monuments, street names and buildings named for historical figures. Lawmakers passed the law in 2000 as part of a compromise that moved the Confederate flag from atop the State House dome to the Confederate Soldier Monument on the State House grounds.
S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, a Columbia Democrat who introduced a bill to remove Tillman’s statue from the State House grounds in 2008, has said since the Charleston slayings that he wants monuments more accurately to reflect historical figures.
Rutherford said Thursday he does not support taking down monuments and statues. But he does support more information about historical figures. “We need to tell the truth, but I don’t think we need to rid ourselves of history.”
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Gov. Haley urges SC to stay away from KKK rally
Gov. Nikki Haley is urging the public to stay away from a Saturday State House rally by a North Carolina-based Ku Klux Klan group.
“The strength and grace the people of South Carolina have shown over the last three weeks have inspired our family, our neighbors and the entire world,” Haley said in a statement Thursday.
“Our family hopes the people of South Carolina will join us in staying away from the disruptive, hateful spectacle members of the Ku Klux Klan hope to create over the weekend and instead focus on what brings us together.”
The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan have a permit to rally on the north lawn of the State House on Saturday from 3-5 p.m. The group plans to demonstrate in support of the Confederate flag. The flag was removed from the grounds last week and after nine African-Americans were shot and killed in a racially motivated church shooting in Charleston.
“We want to make the State House a lonely place for them,” Haley said of the Klan group. “In doing so, we’ll honor those we have lost and continue to make our state stronger."
Black Educators for Justice, a Florida-based group run by a former director of the New Black Panther Party, also plans a rally at the State House Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. that will overlap with the KKK demonstration for an hour. The leader of that group said last week that demonstrators will not interfere with the Klan rally.
Trenholm Road United Methodist Church of Columbia will hold a prayer vigil Sunday from 3-5 p.m. on the east side of the State House. It originally was set for Saturday, but the church said on social media that it moved the event in response to Haley’s request for the public to stay away from the Klan protest.