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Ridgeway fears Confederate Flag issue distracts from Charleston tragedy

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Rep. Robert Ridgeway III said Monday that he’s proud of the way South Carolina and Charleston have handled the tragic church shooting in that city, and that he hopes the Confederate Flag issue doesn’t detract from that event. “I don’t want the flag issue to pull attention away from what our ultimate problem is,” Ridgeway said. “It’s an issue of the heart, where we should look at each other as people and not as different races.” Gov. Nikki Haley called Monday for the Confederate Flag to be removed from the State House grounds. It was moved to the Confederate Monument from atop the statehouse in July 2000, after being placed atop the State House in April 1961 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. “To me personally, I don’t care if the flag stays up or comes down,” Ridgeway said Monday night. “I think the flag itself represents a time in our history and the history of our state when we were probably doing things wrong. It’s a reminder that we should never go there again.” Haley said Monday that she will use her authority as governor to call legislators back for a special session this summer to vote on the issue. Sen. Kevin Johnson said after her announcement that he believes while the process won’t be easy, the votes are there to remove the flag to “another appropriate location,” which he believes is the S.C. State Museum.

State law requires a two-thirds’ vote from both bodies of the General Assembly for any issue regarding the flag, including removal. “What I’m afraid of is that the issue of the flag is diverting attention away from what the important issue is, and that is, again, that it’s an issue of the heart,” Ridgeway said. “I am proud of the way South Carolina has handled the situation in Charleston. I think of all the citizens that have come together, holding hands, praying together and banding together and the camaraderie, and I hope it shows the rest of the nation that we deal with incidents differently than some other places.” While Johnson said he would vote for the flag’s removal during a special session later this summer, Ridgeway said he is currently undecided, and will consider all constituents’ opinions. “I have had people call me and tell me that the flag needs to come down; I have had others call me and tell me that it needs to stay up,” he said. “I represent everyone in District 64, not just me. I’m going to have to vote the way most of the people in District 64 tell me to vote.” “I will just have to wait and see how everyone feels about the issue,” Ridgeway concluded.

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