S.C. governor signs bill to remove Confederate flag from Capitol grounds
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s governor used nine pens Thursday to sign a law that will remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds and send it to a museum.
Each pen, Gov. Nikki Haley said, will go to the families of the nine victims of last month’s massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
By showing forgiveness after the shooting, she said, they caused the change of heart that led to passage of the history-making bill.
“This is a story about the history of South Carolina and how the action of nine individuals laid out this long chain of events that forever showed the state of South Carolina what love and forgiveness looks like,” she said.
Crowds wanting to be part of the event gathered around the flag on the State House grounds and jammed the lobby to witness the signing.
The flag, a fixture on Capitol grounds for half a century, will be lowered at 10 a.m. Friday, Haley said.
The legislation calls for the flag to be taken down within 24 hours of her signing of the bill and moved to the state’s Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum for display.
“We’re a state that believes in tradition. We’re a state that believes in history. We’re a state that believes in respect,” Haley said before signing the bill. “So we will bring it down with dignity, and we will make sure that it is put in its rightful place.”
Early Thursday morning, the S.C. House of Representatives voted 94 to 20 to take down the flag, giving final approval to a bill that passed the state Senate earlier in the week.
The vote count was more than the two-thirds needed, but it came after a handful of lawmakers mounted a tenacious last stand, proposing amendment after amendment that led the debate to drag on more than 12 hours.
“It’s bittersweet, because it took a tragedy to bring this body to this decision,” South Carolina state Rep. Jenny Horne told CNN”s “New Day” on Thursday morning, referring to the slayings of nine black churchgoers in Charleston three weeks ago. “I am so proud to be a South Carolinian and proud of what South Carolina has done to move this state forward.”
Horne, a Republican, delivered an emotional speech on the House floor in favor of removing the flag.
“I felt like … someone needed to change the course of the debate, because no one had mentioned … the Charleston Nine,” she said. “I would like to think that my remark helped change the course of the debate.”
The House vote may even bring immediate benefits to South Carolina. NAACP President Cornell William Brooks said the group will consider lifting a 15-year economic boycott against the state during a national convention this weekend.