Amendment to allow voters to decide fate of Confederate flag is defeated

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – An amendment that would have let voters decide on whether to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol has been defeated.

The amendment saw the most debate of Wednesday’s session before it was set aside on a 71-48 vote. The popular vote would have been non-binding, meaning legislators wouldn’t have to heed to it.

Opponents of the idea said it was illegal in South Carolina and also unnecessary since voters sent their representatives to the Statehouse to vote on their behalf.

Supporters of the amendment said the people did not get a voice on the issue because the bill was not sent through a committee where public hearings could have been held. Several of them pointed out their emails, phone calls and letters have been heavily in support of the flag.

“I think it is difficult to deny the people a voice when they want one,” said Republican Rep. Christopher Corley.

Rep. Mike Pitts presented a series of amendments he thought should be addresses in addition to the Confederate flag position, Namely, Pitts offered an amendment to take down each individual monument at the South Carolina Capitol, but those amendments have been ruled out of order by House Speaker Jay Lucas.

Lucas said the only matters that could be taken up have to deal directly with the Confederate flag that flies beside a monument to Confederate soldiers on the front lawn of the Statehouse.

Pitts was asking for a vote to get rid of statues honoring the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, soldiers from the Spanish-American War, Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton and the memorial to African-Americans built as part of the 2000 compromise that took the Confederate flag off the Statehouse dome.

“I’m starting to know how Lee felt at Appomattox,” Pitts said, referring to the place where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army at the end of the Civil War.

As lawmakers continue to debate the flag issue, the S.C. Law Enforcement Division announced Wednesday it is investigating multiple threats that have been sent to members of the S.C. General Assembly over the Confederate Flag issue.

SLED states that they understand the First Amendment protects free speech, but that it is illegal and inexcusable to threaten the life of a public official or their family.

Law enforcement officers and SLED will work together to make arrests or punish those responsible for the threats if needed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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