Wallace McKelvey, Penn Live, June 15, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the removal of a Confederate flag from the Pennsylvania Capitol Wednesday after a short-lived saga played out in which the fraught Civil War symbol was taken down, returned and taken down again.
The flag had hung in the East Wing since May 29 as part of a display of several dozen historical flags from the Hanover Area Historical Society in honor of Flag Day, which takes place annually on June 14.
Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Philadelphia, noticed the flag late Tuesday, removed it on her own and turned it over to House Speaker Mike Turzai’s office.
“That Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, murder and oppression,” Brown said Wednesday, noting the impending anniversary of the massacre at a black church in Charleston, S.C., that prompted the removal of the flag from the grounds of that state’s capitol.
Turzai’s office turned the flag that was left in its possession over to the police. It was briefly returned to the display, which also included another Confederate flag, the Bonnie Blue Flag first used in Mississippi when the state seceded from the union in 1861.
Brown, several other lawmakers, police officers and members of the Department of General Services, which approves such installations, all milled about the East Rotunda for several hours on Wednesday morning.
Gov. Tom Wolf formally ordered the removal of the confederate flag after Brown brought it to the attention of the governor’s office. The “stars and bars” flag was also removed.
“The governor believes the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and hatred that has no place in this building or any state building,” Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said, after the flags’ removal.
Brown, who chairs the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, said she’s not necessarily opposed to the display of the Confederate flag as part of a historical display. The problem with the historical society’s display, she said, was that the adjoining plaque didn’t provide the history of bloodshed and racism that the flag represents.
“That flag can come back up, but it has to tell the truth,” she said.
Sheridan said the administration’s policy is that no Confederate flags should hang in the Capitol, but declined to comment on the issue of whether a flag given proper context would ever be appropriate. It’s an issue, he said, the governor would be willing to discuss with Brown.