Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Legislators Agree State Flag Issue Can't Be Avoided

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Legislators Agree State Flag Issue Can't Be Avoided

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- The 2001 General Assembly session offers a "golden opportunity" for lawmakers to move beyond a painful chapter in Georgia history -- its resistance to racial integration -- by removing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, state Sen. David Scott said this week.

"It was placed [on the state flag] for the wrong reasons," Scott, an Atlanta Democrat, told an audience at Georgia Institute of Technology. "It should be put aside in our history books where it belongs."

But the likelihood of passing such a bill is no greater now than in 1993, when Gov. Zell Miller spent much of his political capital on a failed bid to change the flag, Sen. Joey Brush said.

"We can choose to see what we want to see in this flag," said Brush, a Republican from Appling.

Scott, who is black, and Brush, who is white, debated the flag issue for nearly two hours Wednesday night before more than 100 students. Their exchange represented a divided state in microcosm.

According to a recent poll, 49 percent of Georgia voters oppose removing the battle emblem, while 33 percent support the change. The other 18 percent had no opinion.

One of the few points the senators agreed on was that, like it or not, lawmakers will be forced to deal with the issue during the upcoming session.

Now that the South Carolina legislature has lowered the Confederate battle flag from its Capitol dome in Columbia, opponents of the flag have shifted their focus to Georgia.

After laying low during the fall campaign season, the Coalition to Change the Georgia Flag met last weekend and vowed to push for a bill that would restore the state's pre-1956 flag. The former standard was adopted in 1879 and based on the first Confederate national flag.

To members of the coalition, which is spearheaded by black political and civil-rights leaders, the Confederate battle emblem represents slavery and white supremacy. …

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