US House Votes to Ban Confederate Flag at Federal Cemeteries


People stand and listen to pro-Confederate flag speakers on their position.

The House has voted to ban the display of Confederate flags at historic federal cemeteries in the deep South.

The low-profile move came Tuesday evening after a brief debate on a measure funding the National Park Service, which maintains 14 national cemeteries, most of which contain graves of Civil War soldiers.

The proposal by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., added language to block the Park Service from allowing private groups to decorate the graves of southern soldiers with Confederate flags in states that commemorate Confederate Memorial Day. The cemeteries affected are the Andersonville and Vicksburg cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi.

"The American Civil War was fought, in Abraham Lincoln's words, to 'save the last best hope of Earth,'" Huffman said in a debate in which he was the only speaker. "We can honor that history without celebrating the Confederate flag and all of the dreadful things that it symbolizes."

The flag ban was adopted by a voice vote. The Park Service funding bill is scheduled for a vote on Thursday.

Pressure has mounted to ban display of the flag on state and federal property in the wake of last month's tragic murders at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The accused killer, Dylann Roof, posed with the Confederate flag in online photos and reportedly has told authorities that he wanted to start a race war.

Following the lead of GOP Gov. Nikki Haley, the South Carolina Senate has voted to remove the flag from the Capitol grounds and the state House was taking up the measure Wednesday.

But House leaders have deferred action on a plan by Bennie Thompson, a black Democrat from Mississippi, to ban Confederate images such as that contained in the Mississippi flag from being displayed in the House complex. Numerous statues of Confederate figures such as Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States, are also on display in the Capitol.

Thompson: Flag 'Treasonous'

Mississippi's only black congressman is stepping up his effort to remove all images of the Confederate battle flag from the U.S. House chamber and House office buildings in Washington.

That includes the Mississippi state flag, which has featured the battle emblem since 1894.

Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson filed a resolution June 23 to remove Confederate images from Capitol spaces controlled by the House. The resolution was sent to the House Administration Committee led by Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan.

Thompson sent Miller a letter Wednesday urging her to advance his proposal.

"I do not feel there is much investigation or fact-finding that needs to be done," Thompson wrote. "The Confederate States of America was a treasonous group of rebels who made every effort to tear apart this country and continue their traditions of enslavement of Black people."

He said the U.S. House "should not display an image of an insurrectionist movement with which this country went to war."

Thompson does not fly the Mississippi flag in his offices.

Debate about Confederate symbols gained new traction after the June 17 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in what police say was an attack motivated by racial hatred. The white man charged in the slayings had posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos posted online before the slayings.

Both of Mississippi's Republican U.S. senators and the Republican state House speaker said after the Charleston attack that Mississippi should redesign its flag to remove a symbol they consider divisive.

Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, both Republican, have said they respect results of a 2001 election in which Mississippi voters decided nearly 2-to-1 to keep the state flag. They said if the flag design is reconsidered, it should be done by voters rather than by the state Legislature.


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