Alabama governor Robert Bentley unilaterally ordered the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capitol this morning, saying the decision was “partially” related to the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina last week. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist, shot and killed 9 people in a historic black church, and appeared in online images beside the flag, which is seen by many as a symbol of slavery and racism.
“This is the right thing to do,” said Bentley, a second-term Republican, according to AL.com. “We are facing some major issues in this state regarding the budget and other matters that we need to deal with. This had the potential to become a major distraction as we go forward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do. And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down.”
Two workers swiftly and unceremoniously removed the flag, which stood at the foot of a Confederate memorial, at about 8 am local time this morning, along with several other Civil War-era flags. Bentley later told reporters he found no legislative hurdles to take the flag down, and thus decided to promptly do so.
Meanwhile, in other Southern states, the flag and its legacy are still the subject of heated debates. South Carolina governor Nikki Haley called for the removal of the flag, and the state legislature will decide whether to do so later this summer—but not everyone is on board. Some lawmakers in Mississippi have raised the issue of re-designing the state’s flag, which prominently displays the Confederate battle flag, but this will also likely be an uphill battle.