Farewell to the flag
South Carolina votes to remove Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill into law Thursday that will bring down the Confederate flag outside the Statehouse, a move that seemed unthinkable only a month ago in this Deep South state that was the first to secede from the Union.
The law requires the battle flag to be gone within 24 hours; her staff said it would be removed during a ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday and relegated to the state’s Confederate Relic Room.
“The Confederate flag is coming off the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse,’’ Haley said. “We will bring it down with dignity and we will make sure it is stored in its rightful place.’’
The flag first flew over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War and was kept there as a symbol of official opposition to the civil rights movement.
Mass protests decades later led to a compromise in 2000 with lawmakers who insisted that the flag symbolized Southern heritage and state’s rights.
They agreed then to move it to a 30-foot pole next to a Confederate monument out front.
But even from that lower perch, the historic but divisive symbol remained clearly visible in the centre of town, and flag supporters remained a powerful bloc in the state.
The massacre 22 days ago of nine people inside their historic black church in Charleston suddenly changed this dynamic, not only in South Carolina but around the nation.
Police said the shootings inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were racially motivated, and by posing with the Confederate flag before the shootings, suspect Dylann Storm Roof, who has not yet entered a plea to nine counts of murder, re-ignited a debate over the flag’s history as a symbol of white superiority and racial oppression.
Haley moved first, calling on South Carolina lawmakers to vote the flag down, and very quickly thereafter, other Republican lawmakers who have long cultivated the votes of Confederate flag supporters were announcing that other Civil War symbols no longer deserve places of honour.
South Carolina’s flag removal bill passed easily in the Senate, where state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor gunned down at the church, had served, but was stalled by debate in the House as dozens of amendments were proposed.
Leslie Minerd, of Columbia, S.C., holds a sign as she celebrates outside the South Carolina Statehouse, Thursday after the State voted to remove the controversial Confederate flag from outside the Statehouse this morning.