Confederate flag still flies as Pinckney’s body heads for S.C. Capitol

The Confederate battle flag will still flap at the foot of South Carolina’s State House when Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s body lies in state there beginning Wednesday around noon.

A week after the killing of the African-American preacher and state senator by a man who had posed in photos with the flag as a symbol of white supremacy, the deceased’s legislative colleagues are still grappling with whether to take it down.

Since Dylann Roof, 21, gunned down Pinckney and eight other worshipers during a Bible study at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, hundreds have demonstrated at the Capitol building in Columbia to have it removed immediately.

On Tuesday, lawmakers took a step in that direction.

Only 10 members of the South Carolina House of Representatives voted against a motion to open up a debate to ultimately remove the flag from a war memorial located yards from the Capitol’s doors.

Critics: Do it now

A law protecting it and other Civil War symbols requires a two-thirds supermajority vote to take it down. But critics say it could go much faster if lawmakers would just strike down that law with a simple majority vote.

In Charleston, with fears that outside protesters could descend there, too, the city council acted quickly, unanimously passing a special resolution to establish guidelines for demonstrations.

Demonstrators will have to stay at least 300 feet away from any church, synagogue, funeral home, cemetery, or family home, said Councilmember Kathleen Wilson.

She and other council members have heard that far-right protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church may be among those visiting town.

Who was Rev. Clementa Pickney?

Pinckney answered the call to preach nearly 30 years ago, at the age of 13, according to a biography on the church website. He was first appointed a pastor when he was 18. He graduated from Columbia’s Allen University magna cum laude and was president of the student body at the Columbia school.

Back then, Ebony magazine even featured him as one of its “Top College Students in America.”

In 1996, at 23, he was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives, the youngest black person ever to win such a seat.

Four years later, voters elevated him to the state Senate. He recently advocated for legislation to make police wear body cameras, believing it would protect lives.

Pinckney was shot dead at age 41.

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