By John Celock
South Carolina’s governor called for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the state Capitol grounds in Columbia Monday, five days after the murder of nine at a historically black church in Charleston by an alleged shooter with white supremacist views.
Gov. Nikki Haley (R) made the announcement Monday saying that while some in the state view the Confederate Flag as a symbol of the state’s history, others view it as a divisive symbol. Haley said that the flag – which had flown atop the Capitol until 2000 – did not belong on the grounds of the Capitol. Haley’s call comes after a growing bipartisan number of South Carolina lawmakers and political leaders – including Charleston Mayor Joe Riley (D) – have called for the flag to be removed from the Capitol grounds.
“It is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds,” she said.
Haley was joined at the press conference by Riley, U.S. Sens. Lindsay Graham (R) and Tim Scott (R), state lawmakers and members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation. Among the members of Congress present was U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford (R), Haley’s predecessor as governor.
“My hope is by removing a symbol that divides us we can move forward in harmony,” Haley said.
The South Carolina Legislature reconvenes Tuesday for a limited agenda session focused on the state budget. Lawmakers are calling for a vote to amend the agenda for the session to take up the flag issue, which would require a super majority of both chambers.
Haley said Monday that if lawmakers do not take up the flag issue on their own, she will use her authority to call them into a special session to tackle the flag removal.
Calls for the removal of the flag have grown since last Wednesday’s massacre at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, which left nine dead, including the church’s pastor, Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator. Dylann Roof, the accused gunman, had posted a series of white supremacist statements prior to the shooting. During her speech Monday, Haley characterized Roof’s statements and thoughts of the flag to be “sick and twisted.”
During a press conference earlier Monday, state Sen. Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston) said that he and others supporting the flag’s removal welcomed Haley’s support, saying that she is a “powerful voice”. Kimpson said though that the decision still rested with the state Legislature and the need to bring his colleagues on board to support removal.
“It is time to end division in this state and it is time to move forward into the 21st Century,” Kimpson said.