South Carolina House backs removal of Confederate flag

Removal sought after Dylann Roof, suspect in church shooting, posed with flag

The Confederate battle flag flies on the grounds of the South Carolina State House in Columbia. Photograph: Travis Dove/The New York Times.

The Confederate battle flag flies on the grounds of the South Carolina State House in Columbia. Photograph: Travis Dove/The New York Times.

 

The South Carolina House of Representatives early on Thursday backed a proposal to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds.

It was an action that would have been politically inconceivable just three weeks ago.

The bill still faces a final test in the 124-member chamber. But the 93-27 vote, more than the two-thirds needed for final passage, raised hopes among the proposal’s supporters that the flag would be lowered by the weekend.

It has been a divisive symbol that has evoked slavery and segregation for some and history and Southern pride for others.

The state Senate approved the measure this week and Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who advocated passionately for the flag’s removal after the June 17th massacre of nine members of a predominantly black church in Charleston, has said she will sign the measure into law.

Before the vote, legislators spent much of Wednesday locked in an emotional debate about the proposal.

Supporters of removing the flag fended off amendments that could have jeopardized the bill’s prospects of final passage.

The bill approved by the House matches the measure passed in the Senate.

It calls for the flag to be moved to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, a state-supported property near the State House.

The legislative action this week, if given final ratification, will undo a 15-year-old compromise about the flag, which flew above the State House’s dome until 2000, when it was moved to a flagpole near the Confederate Soldier Monument.

Although critics of the flag remained frustrated by its prominence at the State House, in Columbia, the agreement was thought to be untouchable until the attack at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, which the authorities have described as a hate crime.

After photographs became public of the suspect in the shooting, Dylann Roof, posing with the Confederate battle flag, many lawmakers from both parties began to demand that the flag at the State House be taken down for good.

New York Times