Hillary Clinton calls for removal of Confederate flag, the 'symbol of America's racist past'

Several global retailers have banned its sale following the Charleston shooting

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The Independent US

Hillary Clinton has urged all businesses to stop selling products displaying the controversial Confederate flag, calling it a symbol of America’s “racist past”.

The presidential candidate spoke as calls for the banner to be removed from official buildings in the US continue following the Charleston shooting, when a suspected white supremacist massacred nine black members of a church.

Mrs Clinton, a Democrat, urged all businesses to follow Google, Amazon eBay and Walmart to stop selling products displaying the Confederate flag.

Dylann Storm Roof, the alleged Charleston shooter, posed with a Confederate flag and a gun

After coming under fire for failing to lower the flag in the days immediately after the Charleston shooting, politicians in South Carolina, including Governor Nikki Haley, have called for it to be removed from outside the State House.

“(The flag) is a symbol of our nation's racist past that has no place in our present or our future. It shouldn't fly there. It shouldn't fly anywhere,“ Mrs Clinton said.

The former First Lady and US Secretary of State was speaking at a church in Florissant, a suburb of St Louis near Ferguson in Missouri, where protests erupted last year following the killing of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.

She told crowds removing the Confederate flag from sale was “just the beginning” of what had to change in the US.

Hillary Clinton said the flag was a symbol of her nation's 'racist past'

"Equality, opportunity, civil rights in America are still far from where they need to be," Mrs Clinton said.

"America's long struggle with race is far from finished," she added, calling for new laws to encourage voting and policies to reduce unemployment and school dropout rates among ethnic minorities.

Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white man charged with gunning down black members of the Emanuel African Episcopal Methodist Church, displayed the Confederate flag on his car’s number plate and posed waving it in a series of photos posted with what is believed to be his racist manifesto.

Even before the link with Roof’s car was revealed, people were voicing their fury on Thursday that with other flags lowered in mourning, the Confederate banner fluttered proudly at full height outside the South Carolina state house.

The red, blue and white flag is a divisive symbol in the US, more than 150 years after it was used as the symbol of the failed Confederacy during the Civil War.

Many people in the South embrace it as a badge of their shared history and independence from the federal government in Washington but its use by white supremacists and links to slavery and racial segregation mean it is frequently associated with racism.

Mississippi is the only state to feature the symbol on its official state flag, where it appears in the canton after a vote to change it was defeated in 2001.

Additional reporting by Reuters