South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol Monday.
“Today, we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds,” Haley said during a news conference attended by Republican senators Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott and other state leaders.
The announcement was met by applause and cheers from those in attendance.
The flag wasn’t lowered to half-staff after the shooting along with the other flags at the Statehouse after nine people were killed at a historic African American church Wednesday because doing so is under the authority of the state’s General Assembly — and so is taking it down.
Authorities have said the shooting was a hate crime, and a white supremacist website that may be linked to shooter Dylann Roof shows images that apparently show him holding the flag.
The General Assembly’s session ended on June 4, but lawmakers are meeting Tuesday to pass a budget compromise, at which point they can vote on extending the session to debate the Confederate flag. A decision to continue the session would take two-thirds of the vote, as would passing legislation to take down the flag.
If they don’t, Haley said she would use her authority to call them back into session to debate on the flag.
“There will be a time for discussion and debate, but the time for action is coming soon,” Haley said. “We know bringing down the flag will not bring back the nine victims,” but “we will not allow the symbol to divide us any longer.”
“I hope that, by removing the flag, we can take another step towards healing and recognition – and a sign that South Carolina is moving forward,” Graham said in a statement after the news conference.
Political and religious leaders in the state urged lawmakers to vote to remove the flag as early as Tuesday in tribute to the victims of the shooting.
“This act will do something very personal,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said on Monday.
“Take away Mr. Roof’s symbol of misguided idea of racial superiority and bigotry. Take it away from him and all like him and give the front of our state Capitol equally and fairly to every citizen of South Carolina,” he said.
Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, a National Action Network and NAACP official, called for the flag to come down before Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, who was a state senator, lies in state on Wednesday. He was the pastor of Emanuel AME and one of the nine victims of Wednesday’s shooting.
“We should not go another week with that symbol of hate that was adored by the man who killed them to sit in front of the people’s house,” Rivers said.
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SOURCE: NBC News – Elisha Fieldstadt