ABOVE: Political, cultural showdown looming over issue of Confederate battle flag
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart said Monday it is removing any items from its store shelves and website that feature the Confederate flag.
The announcement by the world’s biggest retailer comes as the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, have reignited the debate over the flag’s symbolism. The white suspect in the shooting, Dylann Storm Roof, appeared in photos holding the banner.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday that the flag should be removed from the statehouse grounds, acknowledging that to many the flag is a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.”
In a statement, Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart Stores Inc. said its goal is to not offend anyone with the products it offers.
“We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the Confederate flag from our assortment — whether in our stores or on our website,” the company said. “We have a process in place to help lead us to the right decisions when it comes to the merchandise we sell. Still, at times, items make their way into our assortment improperly — this is one of those instances.”
A search Monday of Walmart’s website for Confederate flag merchandise returned no results. But a Mississippi state flag, which features the Confederate battle emblem in one of its corners, was on offer.
A top Mississippi lawmaker called Monday for the removal of the emblem from the state flag.
Canadian chain pulls flags off shelves
A Vancouver-based chain of stores that sells the Confederate flag says that “after much consideration,” it is halting the sale of the controversial banners until further notice.
“I could no longer sit back and wait for things to blow over,” said the Flag Shop’s Susan Braverman. “It’s when people ask why we sell a flag that represents hate.”
The Vancouver store and 12 other shops across Canada have decided to pack away remaining stock of the flag.
The white suspect in the shooting, Dylann Storm Roof, appeared in photos holding the banner. The Flag Shop’s Braverman says she shudders at the thought of her flags being linked to something so disturbing.
“I would just feel terrible if someone were able to buy that flag from our store and use it for that purpose,” she said.
*With files from the Canadian Press and Catherine Urquhart