In the wake of last week's Charleston shooting that left nine dead at an African Methodist Episcopal church, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Capitol building.
"Today, we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds," Haley said during a press conference this afternoon.
The Confederate flag debate has regained steam following 21-year-old Dylann Roof's deadly rampage at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday. Images from Roof's social media accounts and website show him wearing Confederate flag apparel, and his car appears to have a Confederate flag license plate. Along with with photos were statements applauding segregation and declaring a race war on Black and minority communities.
Following the shooting, all of the flags flying over the South Carolina statehouse were lowered to half-staff, except the Confederate flag
"We know bringing down the flag will not bring back the nine victims, [but] we will not allow the symbol to divide us any longer," Haley said. "I hope that by removing the flag, we can take another step towards headlong and recognition—and a sign that South Carolina is moving forward."
At the press conference, Haley said that in her opinion, the flag does not belong above a government building and that she would push for lawmakers to pass legislation removing it from the Capitol.
The legislative session officially adjourned for the season on June 4, but legislators are convening on Tuesday to vote on a budget compromise. During tomorrow's meeting, they can vote to extend session to give them time to discuss removing the flag. Haley said that she would use her powers to extend session if the lawmakers decide not to.
Her announcement brought cheers and applause from the thousands of protestors who have been calling for the flag's removal. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley expressed his appreciation at the governor's announcement.
"This act will do something very personal," Riley said at a conference today. "Take away Mr. Roof's symbol of misguided idea of racial superiority and bigotry. Take it away from him and all like him, and give the front of our state Capitol equally and fairly to every citizen of South Carolina."