Sen. Lee Bright to push for voters to decide fate of Confederate flag

Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck

COLUMBIA — Upstate Sen. Lee Bright said he’d like to see voters decide the fate of the Statehouse’s Confederate battle flag.

The Roebuck Republican said Wednesday that he plans to introduce an amendment on Monday that will allow for the state’s citizens to vote whether the battle flag should be taken off the Statehouse’s grounds, after receiving too many calls from constituents who are supportive of the banner.

“I think that’s the best way to do it,” Bright said. “I think there are a lot more people who are supportive of the flag that are just afraid of being called racist.”

In recent days, Bright launched a campaign in which he provides Confederate banner bumper stickers that say “Keep your hands off my flag” in exchange for donations. He said that idea came about after people approached him over the lack of Confederate memorabilia in stores.

Bright added that proponents of the flag should be able to openly express support just like its opponents.

The fate of the Confederate banner has been an issue of contention since nine churchgoers were killed in Charleston on June 17, allegedly by an avowed white supremacist who often posed with the battle flag.

Dueling flag rallies are expected to take place on Monday when lawmakers return to Columbia to tackle gubernatorial vetoes and bills that would remove the flag. Two-thirds in each chamber of the General Assembly have to vote in favor of taking the battle flag down, a threshold that has been met according to a Post and Courier poll.

State activists called on Wednesday for peaceful demonstrations while the issue is debated under the dome, after an Irmo man was arrested Monday night during a rally. The Department of Public Safety has since visibly increased its presence on the grounds of the Statehouse.

Rev. Darwin Miller, state director of the National Campaign for Tolerance, said young adults have to give lawmakers the time to do their jobs, and called for gangs to not show up for a counter-protest when the Ku Klux Klan holds their pro-flag rally on July 18.

“We are asking the Bloods and the Crips to remain calm and cool,” Miller said. “We want you all to please allow them to have a peaceful demonstration. We ask that anybody else who wants to have a meeting at the Statehouse to please get your permit and let’s do it the right way.”

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.