The Confederate flag flies at South Carolina's state capitol in 2008—with lock visible at bottom
One of the most appalling sights since Dylann Roof's massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, is visible just over a hundred miles away: the Confederate flag, flying on the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia. Why is this revanchist, revisionist symbol of racial extermination still aloft?
Because South Carolina law explicitly requires it. A 2000 bill called the "South Carolina Heritage Act," which moved the flag from the capitol dome to a special "Confederate Soldiers' Monument" nearby, is vexillologically exacting in the utmost. It specifies the flag's shape (square), size (52 inches a side), and even its appearance, down to the finest detail ("The stars are five-pointed, inscribed in a circle six inches in diameter and are uniform in size").
It also says that the flag "shall not be removed, changed, or renamed without the enactment of a joint resolution by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the General Assembly approving same." And to make absolutely certain the flag won't go anywhere, the law even calls for "appropriate decorative iron fences" to be erected around it, to keep it "secure."
In case that wasn't enough, there's also a padlock holding the flag in place, clearly visible in the bottom right of the photo above. A local reporter adds that the flag is not on a pulley, meaning it can't be lowered, just removed—and only by someone with a tall ladder and the key, if anyone still has it handy.
It's this law that Republican Gov. Nikki Haley is falling back on to excuse the flag's glaring presence during this time of mourning; a spokesman says the governor "does not have legal authority" to do anything about it.
But that's actually not true. The law itself says that the provision preventing the flag's removal "shall not apply to the maintenance and repair of the monument." All Haley has to do is send a member of the grounds crew up there and say that something needs fixing. Then we'd see if any Republican legislators have the temerity to complain. It won't happen—Haley would never have the guts—but it should.