Alabama governor orders Confederate flags removed from state Capitol

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley orders Confederate flags to be removed from the grounds of the Southern state’s Capitol.

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 23, 2015) (NBC) – Alabama’s governor ordered Confederate flags removed from the grounds of the Southern state’s Capitol, his office said on Wednesday (June 24), joining a growing movement of politicians to spurn an emblem widely associated with slavery and racism.

“If there are flags that are actually flying over the grounds, if I have the authority to remove them, then I’m going to. And I looked into it, we researched it, we looked at the laws, there was nothing said that it should be flown, there was no reason that I could not remove it, so that’s exactly what I did,” Governor Robert Bentley told reporters a week after the massacre of nine black worshippers at a Bible study session in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The four flags located around the Confederate Memorial on the State Capitol grounds in Montgomery were taken down on Wednesday morning.

The flags – a Confederate battle flag and three flags with different designs used by the Confederate States of America – were removed after a verbal order from the governor, a spokesperson said.

Bentley said it was an important move.

“I think that what I did today was symbolic. I think what I did today — I became the first governor to remove the Confederate flag. Other governors have called for it in Virginia and South Carolina, they didn’t do it. I did it,” he said.

The Civil War-era flags of the South’s pro-slavery Confederacy have become a lightning rod for outrage after the shootings last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, which authorities say was motivated by racial hatred.

Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white South Carolina man charged with nine counts of murder in the killings, had posed with a Confederate battle flag in photos posted on a website that also displayed a racist manifesto.

The Confederate flag controversy is the latest flashpoint in a year of intense debate over U.S. race relations, sparked by the killings of unarmed black men by police officers in a number of cities, including Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and Baltimore. The outcry has prompted protests under the banner “black lives matter”.