An online petition
proposing that the Confederate flag be removed from government property quickly surpassed 200,000 signatures after a gunman shot and killed nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston Wednesday night.
The flag's place on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds was questioned again this week after 21-year old Dylann Roof was accused of entering Mother Emanuel in downtown Charleston and gunning down nine people inside after reportedly declaring his intention to "shoot black people."
In photos circulated online
, Roof appears sitting on the hood of a car brandishing a Confederate States of America license plate. For years, the flag has stood for some as a symbol both of the American Civil War and for many others as a reminder of the nation's history of slavery, segregation, and racially-motivated violence.
"Symbols of hate have no place in our government," the petition posted on MoveOn.org reads. Karen Hunter, the MoveOn member who started the petition, says the flag's symbolism is not one of southern pride, but "of rebellion and racism." At a press conference in Charleston on Friday, NAACP President said images of Roof displaying the flag "as an emblem of hate"
proves that it is more than "merely a symbol of years gone by."
After being posted Thursday morning, the petition garnered 100,000 signatures before midday today. Though the petition is broadly worded to remove the flag from "all government places," Hunter says she felt moved after the killings.
"When I woke up on Thursday morning and heard of the church shooting in South Carolina I was overwhelmed with emotion. I knew I needed to do something to help," Hunter said in in a press release from MoveOn this afternoon.
Since Wednesday's shooting, it's unclear if any additional political will has grown among South Carolina lawmakers to move the flag. Gov. Nikki Haley and now-Congressman Mark Sanford have each passed on opportunities
to call for the flag's removal. Its current position, in front of the state capitol alongside a Confederate memorial, is protected by a state law crafted specifically
to keep the flag flying on the statehouse grounds.
Cover photo by Flickr user eyeliam