RALEIGH – Early this morning the South Carolina House voted to remove the Confederate battle flag flying in front of the South Carolina Capitol building. After debating late into the night for more than 13 hours, the required two-thirds of House members voted in favor of the Senate bill that calls for removing the flag and flagpole and putting it in the South Carolina Relics Museum.
The bill now goes to Governor Nikki Haley who says she will sign it quickly. Haley called for the flag’s removal last month after a shooting in a Charleston church left nine church members dead, including S.C. State Senator Clementa Pickney.
The debate was heated and emotional, with some members sharing the experiences of their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and saying that slavery and racism were not their battle cry, but rather a state’s right to set its own destiny. Other members said that continuing fly the flag would be insulting after images surfaced of the accused Charleston shooter, Dylan Roof, draped in the Confederate flag.
Removal of the flagpole along with the flag is significant because several House members had proposed amendments to fly an alternative flag that honors the state’s Confederate history. They argued on the floor of the House that the Confederate battle flag had been “hijacked” by white supremacists groups and that a less divisive flag could be flown to honor the Confederate dead. Their amendments failed.
South Carolina began flying the Confederate battle flag over the capitol dome in 1961 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, moving it to the front garden in 2000. In North Carolina, the General Assembly took a different approach to the 1961 Civil War Centennial observance.
To honor the 100th anniversary in the Old North State, the General Assembly recommended instead that the First National Flag of the Confederate States of America, known as the “Stars and Bars,” fly twice a year, on May 10, Confederate Memorial Day, and Robert E. Lee’s birthday in January.
Gov. Nikki Haley issued a statement after the S.C. House vote saying, “It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people.” Once she signs the bill, it requires that the flag and flagpole be removed within 24 hours.
For our coverage of the S.C. Senate vote, click here.