UPPER MARLBORO – Maryland officials are calling for the removal the Confederate flag from state license plates after a shooting in Charleston, South Carolina last week took the lives of nine black people.
Prince George’s County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said the Council stands in solidarity with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other state officials who are calling for the flag’s removal because it is a “divisive symbol” and “has no place on any official government licenses or documentation in the state of Maryland.”
“The devastating massacre and act of terrorism that claimed the lives of nine people attending a bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston less than a week ago has heightened consciousness in our nation about the persistence of racially divisive symbols like the Confederate Flag, and state-sponsorship of such symbols,” Franklin said. “The proper place for the Confederate Flag is a museum, not a state-issued license plate.”
On June 17, 21-year-old Dylan Roof opened fire on nine citizens attending bible study in the AME church. Police have classified the shooting as a hate crime and have charged Roof with nine counts of murder.
Officials across the country, including South Carolina’s governor, have called for South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag which flies above the state capitol building in Charleston.
The issue has spread across the nation, with officials in various states, including Maryland, calling for the flag to be removed from license plates.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled one day after the shooting that states could prevent Confederate flags from being issued on license plates.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan recently joined officials in calling for removal of the flag, and Buel Young, a spokesman for the Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA) said the agency is considering what actions to take as a result of the Supreme Court ruling.
“No decisions have been made on how we are going to address the issue, but we are looking at the best avenues and trying to do our due diligence in what actions will be taken,” Young said. “We’ve been looking at that ruling to see what impact it has on how we issue organizational, specialty and vanity license plates,” Young said. “Governor Hogan is against the use of the confederate flag on the license plate, so we’re working with the Governor’s office and the Attorney General’s office to determine how we’re going to address the issue here.”
In addition, 42 Maryland state legislators joined forces to write a letter to the state Department of Transportation and the MVA. Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate David Moon also wrote letters to Attorney General Brian Frosh requesting a formal opinion confirming that the MVA/DOT may proceed in recalling the license plates without need for legislation.
The license plates previously came into question the 1990s, according to the legislators’ letter. The Motor Vehicles Administration decided to recall Maryland license plates that had been issued with Confederate flags on them, according to the letter, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the action on free speech grounds in a decision now effectively overruled by the Supreme Court.
“We therefore urge you to work with the MVA to reinstate its former policy on this issue and exclude the use of the Confederate insignia on state license plates,” the legislators said. “We hope that you will undertake a prompt review of the situation and conclude that the state of Maryland has both the legal authority and a clear reason to disassociate ourselves from a symbol that may reasonably be regarded as a “badge and incident” of slavery within the meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment.
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