South Carolina governor signs Bill to remove Confederate flag
Legislation removing emblem of slavery follows passionate debate in state assembly
Man holds a confederate battle flag and Bible outside the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, on Thursday, just hours before Gov Nikki Haley signed a Bill to remove the flag from statehouse grounds. Photograph: Jason Miczek/Reuters
The Confederate battle flag, which has reignited a national debate since last month’s killings of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina, is to be removed from the grounds of the state’s seat of government.
Republican governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley signed a Bill on Thursday to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds on Friday.
Ahead of a vote approving its removal, state lawmakers spoke passionately during a debate lasting into the early hours of Thursday about their opposition to the flag.
The “Stars and Bars” is, to some, an insulting symbol of slavery, to others a proud emblem of America’s Southern heritage.
Ms Haley, an Indian-American who previously resisted attempts to remove the flag from the statehouse in Columbia, called the vote “a new day for South Carolina”.
The removal of the flag marks a startling volte-face in a state where the first shots of the US Civil War were fired.
The flag, a symbol of the South’s opposition to Abraham Lincoln’s fight to abolish slavery, was raised above the state capitol 53 years ago in an act of opposition to the Civil Rights movement.
Now a divisive emblem of white supremacists, the flag reignited the debate when Dylann Roof, the man accused of killing nine African-Americans at a church in Charleston on June 17th, was photographed holding the flag in images on his website.
In Washington, John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, called for a review of the display of Confederate memorabilia in the US Capitol, ending a racially charged debate in the House about use of the flag in parks and cemeteries.
He plans to set up a working group of Democrats and Republicans to review the use of Confederate symbols on government land.
“We all witnessed the people of Charleston and the people of South Carolina come together in a respectful way to deal with, frankly, what was a very horrific crime and difficult issue with the Confederate flag,” Mr Boehner said.
“I actually think it’s time for some adults here in the Congress to actually sit down and have a conversation about how to address this issue. I do not want this to become some political football.”
Following emotional speeches, South Carolina’s House of Representatives voted to remove the flag by 94 votes to 20, after the state’s senate had earlier approved its removal.