Alabama governor orders Confederate flags taken down

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has directed that four Confederate flags be taken down from a Confederate memorial at the state capitol.

Bentley’s order comes just two days after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley asked state lawmakers to remove the flag from her state’s capitol, and amid a seismic shift on the question of whether the flag should fly on government property, in the wake of last week’s church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

Bentley spokeswoman Yasamie August told CNN that the flags were taken down because Bentley did not want to distract from legislative issues. August said the move will be permanent, but no other discussions are underway about the Confederate memorial itself.

The Birmingham News reports that workers quietly removed the flags at 8:20 a.m. Wednesday and declined to answer questions. Bentley later told the paper that the flags had “the potential to become a major distraction” as state leaders work through the state budget and other issues.

South Carolina has been the nexus of attention for the revived debate over the Confederate flag. But other southern states are reviewing their flags and the use of Confederate symbols on other official state items.

Mississippi voters elected in 2001 to keep the Confederate “bars and stars” as part of their state flag, but state lawmakers are renewing a push to remove it from the flag. Bipartisan leaders in Tennessee are also reviewing their state flag and looking to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the former Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader, which sits outside the state Senate chamber.

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