The Confederate flag was removed this morning from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse, but one member of the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force said the flag should not have been taken down.
Jeffrey Williams, who was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force in 2011 and reappointed in 2015, said "the current debate about the flag has been terribly misguided."
The new debate over the Confederate flag and symbols started quickly after June 17, when nine black parishioners who were attending a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston were massacred in shooting. Police later arrested and charged 21-year-old Dylann Roof with the murders.
Roof, who is white, was photographed with the Confederate flag and according to reports he made racially inflammatory remarks during the shooting.
Commenting specifically about the tragedy in Charleston, Williams said the problem "was not the Confederate flag, or even Confederate ideology. The problem was Dylann Roof." Williams' described the shooting as "a senseless act by a lone gunman."
The Confederate flag "should be remembered in a military historical context, not in a political context," said Williams. He added that there has been an "over-reaction to ban all things Confederate" and once "emotions run their course...perhaps the dialogue of the proper place for the Confederate Battle Flag in history can begin."
Williams, who wrote a book about his experience as a Civil War re-enactor, said lawmakers in South Carolina "got it right" in 2000 when a compromise was reached which moved the flag from the dome of Statehouse to a 30-foot pole near a Confederate monument on the Statehouse grounds.
In a follow-up interview this morning, Williams said while he disagrees with the decision to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse, he is "satisfied" at the process by which the flag was removed.
Picture source: Stephen B. Morton, New York Times