The U.S. National Park Service announced Thursday that it will remove Confederate flag merchandise from its bookstores and gift shops.
The massacre last week of nine black churchgoers by a white gunmen in a Charleston, South Carolina, church re-ignited debate over the Confederate flag because of the shooter Dylann Roof's apparent obsession with the racist symbol. The park service became the latest retailer to withdraw it from stores.
"We strive to tell the complete story of America," parks Director Jonathan Jarvis said in a press release. "All sales items in parks are evaluated based on educational value and their connection to the park. Any standalone depictions of Confederate flags have no place in park stores."
Historic sites like Fort Sumter, South Carolina where the opening shots of the Civil War were fired, and major battlegrounds like Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and Vicksburg in Mississippi are run by the park service and remain popular with tourists.
The park service joins Walmart, eBay, Sears, Target, Etsy and Amazon in its pledge to remove the flag from shelves. Also on Thursday, Apple began ridding its store of Civil War game apps that include "images of the Confederate flag used in offensive and mean-spirited ways."
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) ordered the removal of four Confederate flags from state Capitol grounds on Wednesday. Following the shooting, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) also called on her state's legislature to remove the Confederate flag from Capitol grounds, but doing so requires a two-thirds vote from both legislative chambers.
The park service said it will continue to sell Confederate flag items when they feature it in a historical or educational context, such as in books, DVDs and other media, so long as the flag cannot be detached from the item. It will also continue to include the flag in educational events such as reenactments, exhibits and other interpretive programs.