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Protesters would be banned from carrying Confederate flag at Michigan Capitol, bill proposes

A dozen Senate democrats have introduced a bill to keep the Confederate battle flag from being displayed, with one saying it is viewed 'as a symbol of hate.'
Credit: AP
Protesters gather at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

LANSING, Mich. — A bill has been introduced in Lansing that would ban the Confederate battle flag from being displayed inside the Michigan Capitol or on Capitol grounds.

Sen. Sylvia Santana called the Confederate flag a “divisive symbol.’’ The Detroit democrat sponsored the bill last week. Eleven democrats are listed as co-sponsors. 

“The Confederate battle flag is viewed by many, regardless of gender, ethnicity or political motivation, as a symbol of hate and racism,’’ she said in a statement.

Under Senate bill 905, “an individual or an organization shall not display the Confederate battle flag inside or on the grounds of this state’s capitol for any purpose.’’ 

Some opponents say the bill violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. It has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations.  

The bill comes on the heels of recent demonstrations in Lansing to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. Some protesters displayed the Confederate flag.

RELATED: Whitmer says 'racism' fueled protests over virus response

Whitmer on Sunday said some of the protesters “depicted some of the worst racism’’ and “awful parts’’ of U.S. history.

“Displays like the one that we saw at our Capitol is not representative of who we are in Michigan,’’ Whitmer said in an appearance on CNN. “There were swastikas and Confederate flags and nooses and people with assault rifles.

“That’s a small group of people when you think about the fact that this is a state of almost 10 million people, the vast majority of whom are doing the right thing and that’s why we’ve seen our curve get pushed down,’’ Whitmer said.

The Senate bill also comes days after a Michigan lawmaker apologized for wearing a face mask that appeared to depict the Confederate flag during a vote at the state Capitol.

Santana, in a statement, said there is no need for a divisive symbol “to be used as a prop to knowingly and purposefully provoke anger and intimidation where we as legislators are all working toward the common good for all Michiganders.’’

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