By John Celock
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has signed legislation to remove the Confederate Flag from the grounds of the state Capitol.
Haley’s signature capped a week of debate among state lawmakers over the removal of the flag; an issue which picked up swift momentum after a massacre last month at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston left nine dead. The accused shooter in the case, Dylan Roof, had written white supremacist articles and was photographed with the Confederate Flag. Among those killed was the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. Haley acknowledged the tragedy during the bill signing ceremony at the Capitol in Columbia.
“It’s hard for us to look at what is happening today and not think back to 22 days ago. It seems like so long ago because the grieving has been so hard,” she said. “We have been struck by a tragedy that we never thought we’d ever encounter.”
The flag will officially come down from the Capitol grounds at 10 a.m. on Friday.
Haley the ceremony to talk about the “story of South Carolina” and how the actions following the tragedy. She talked about how the families of the victims extended forgiveness to Roof days after the shooting during a court appearance. Roof had participated in a Bible study group with the victims for an hour prior to the shooting.
“Nine people took in someone who did not look like them or act like them and with true love and true faith and true acceptance they sat and prayed with them for an hour,” Haley said. “That love and faith was so strong that it brought grace to their families and it showed forgiveness.”
Haley gave nine of the pens that she used to sign the bill into law in order to the families of each of the victims. The governor was surrounded by the families of the victims, state lawmakers, advocates, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and former South Carolina Govs. Dick Riley (D), David Beasley (R) and Joe Hodges (D) during the ceremony. She also presented a pen to Beasley, who was governor from 1995 to 1999, for his past advocacy to have lawmakers vote to remove the flag.
Haley acknowledged the at times acrimonious debate this week among state lawmakers on the flag issue, saying that the debate showed members discussing “the true honor or heritage and tradition and the true pain people felt.” The governor said that South Carolina is a state “that brings in history, tradition and respect.”
The flag will be taken to the relic room of the state museum after it is removed from the Capitol grounds on Friday.
The bill signing comes as Congress debates whether or not federal funds should be used to display the Confederate Flags on federal lands. The issue led House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to block consideration of an appropriations bill that contained debate on the issue.
Haley acknowledged the impact of the impact of the past 22 days in state history.
“Twenty two days ago I didn’t know if I’d be able to say this again, but today I am proud to say it is a great day in South Carolina,” she said.