As S.C. Confederate flag debate rages, controversy over Tampa Confederate flag gets rekindled

the thousands of petitions calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds in the wake of Wednesday's racially motivated shootings are some unlikely voices, including South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Senator from South Carolina Tim Scott, as well as former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. 

"Today, we are in here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to move the flag from capitol grounds," said Haley, according to The Hill.

While Tampa Bay may be hundreds of miles from Charleston, where the shootings occurred, and from Columbia, where the flag flies, debate over Confederate flags hits home.

That's because a large rebel flag flies high above the I-4 and I-75 junction just east of Tampa, and has for years been a sore spot for many residents that have to drive past it every day.

Those who support displaying the flag say it's about honoring Southern heritage and has nothing to do with racism. 

Many are descended from Confederate soldiers, and think the flag has been "hijacked" by hate groups and that it's really not meant to invoke nostalgia for the days the South boomed economically because it was legal to enslave human beings.

"It's a historical marker," said Bob Hatfield from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group that flies the flag over a Confederate memorial on private land. "It's a reminder to all of us who had ancestors in the war."

Critics beg to differ.

Rev. Thomas Scott, a former Tampa City Councilman and Hillsborough County Commissioner, said it's time for the 30-by-60-foot flag, which has flown since 2008, to come down.

"Given the history of it, I don't know why anybody would want to fly that flag," he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "I think it sends a negative message about the citizens of Hillsborough County. It is very disgusting and very distasteful to see it flying."

Needless to say, unlike the one that flies over South Carolina's capitol, the flag probably won't be coming down anytime soon.

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