ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Democrats called for an end to state holidays commemorating Confederate history on Friday, joining a push across the country to remove the battle flag and other symbols from government buildings after nine black members of a South Carolina church were fatally shot.
A 21-year-old white man identified by authorities as the shooter has been linked to an online diatribe professing allegiance to white supremacy and displaying the Confederate battle flag.
At a news conference Friday at the Capitol, State Sen. Vincent Fort said that he is drafting legislation to prevent any Confederate holidays in Georgia. The state celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on a date determined by the governor to mark the end of the Civil War in Georgia and Confederate History Month.
Fort, an Atlanta Democrat, also challenged Deal to eliminate a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag for Sons of Confederate Veterans. Deal, a Republican, said earlier this week that he will support a redesign of the plate, after initially telling reporters he wouldn't urge lawmakers to make any changes.
"He needs to take a cue from some of his Republican governors in other states who are calling for the elimination of Confederate symbols, state-authorized Confederate symbols," Fort said. "If you're a private citizen and you want to have a shrine to the Confederacy in your home or your backyard and go pray to it every night, that's your business. But the state of Georgia should not be in the business of authorizing by deed or action the Confederacy, which is such a painful, painful part of the history of the South and this country."
South Carolina's Gov. Nikki Haley has called for a battle flag to be removed at her state's Capitol, and Alabama's Gov. Robert Bentley quietly had 4 flags removed from the Capitol grounds. Governors in several other states have called for the end of license plates similar to Georgia's.
The specialty plate was no longer listed on the Georgia Department of Revenue's site Friday morning. An agency spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for more information.