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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs bill removing Confederate flag from Capitol

By Doug G. Ware and Danielle Haynes
1/12
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs bill removing Confederate flag from Capitol
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs S.897 into law at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina on July 9, 2015. The bill allows the removal of the Confederate flag that flies on the State House grounds. This comes in the wake of the nine people killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on July 17, 2015. A suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, has been indicted for the shootings. Photo by Kevin Liles/UPI | License Photo

COLUMBIA, S.C., July 9 (UPI) -- Less than three weeks after calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House, Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a bill doing just that.

Haley signed the legislation Thursday hours after the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill removing the flag, a highly controversial issue aggravated by the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church last month.

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"Today, as the Senate did before them, the House of Representatives has served the state of South Carolina and her people with great dignity," Haley said of the vote Thursday. "I'm grateful for their service and their compassion. 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 and one state."

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The flag is scheduled to be removed at 10 a.m. local time Friday. It will be taken to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum blocks from the State House, ABC News reported.

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The House passed the bill by a vote of 94-20. The South Carolina Senate passed the legislation earlier this week.

The bill's passage followed 13 hours of debate on the topic, which has long been a hot-button issue in the United States due to the belief by some that the flag is a symbol of segregation.

After last month's shootings, which killed nine black worshipers at a church in Charleston, photographs of the accused gunman surfaced online prominently featuring the Confederate flag.

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The Confederate flag has flown at the South Carolina Capitol since 1961, when the state raised it as a way to honor the 100th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. But some critics believe it was a show of defiance amid the emerging civil rights movement.

In 1962, the state officially mandated the flag be flown at the Capitol permanently -- and it has ever since. In 2001, Time magazine called it a "a states'-rights rebuff to desegregation." Yale University law Professor James Forman, Jr. asserted 24 years ago it was largely common knowledge what the flag really stood for.

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"The Confederate flag symbolizes more than the Civil War and the slavery era," he wrote in a 1991 law journal titled "Driving Dixie Down: Removing the Confederate Flag from Southern State Capitols."

"The flag has been adopted knowingly and consciously by government officials seeking to assert their commitment to black subordination," he said.

In view of the Charleston church shooting, however, the flag's presence at government properties nationwide has taken a vicious beating.

"The alleged killer of the Charleston nine used that flag as a symbol of hatred and bigotry and racism," Democratic South Carolina Sen. Joel Lourie said Monday during the chamber's passage of the bill.

Three weeks ago, Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley ordered the removal of the so-called "Rebel Flag" from the state's Capitol grounds in Montgomery. Other images featuring Confederate elements, such as Mississippi's state flag and statues of Confederate leaders, are also spurring calls for their removal at state and federal buildings.

The flag is disappearing from other venues, as well. Retailers Walmart and Amazon recently announced the pulling of all items that bear the Confederate mark -- and TV Land recently announced it would pull The Dukes of Hazzard off its schedule. The network didn't give a reason for the show's removal, but one of the program's signature elements is a bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger, known as the General Lee, which features the Confederate flag painted on its roof.

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