COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Confederate battle flag will be removed from the South Carolina State Capitol grounds Friday morning, three weeks after a fatal domestic terrorism incident that left nine people dead in a Charleston church.
Both houses of South Carolina’s legislature successfully passed legislation removing the flag. In the House, hours of debate and attempts at amending the bill failed to stop the body from passing the legislation. Gov. Nikki Haley signed it Thursday afternoon. A previous law, passed when the flag was removed from the Capitol dome to a Confederate memorial on the grounds, required a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature to alter the flag’s placement in the future.
The battle flag — made popular during the early years of the Confederacy and eventually adopted into two of the rebels’ national flags — has been at the center of controversy for decades. Renewed attention turned back toward the flag in the aftermath of shootings by alleged white supremacist Dylan Roof, 21, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston on June 17. The shooting left nine dead, including the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney.
Local and regional LGBT organizations were quick to join in solidarity with those mourning the church members’ loss and, later, to call for the removal of the battle flag from the Capitol grounds.
South Carolina Equality on Thursday applauded the legislature’s and governor’s decision to remove the flag on Friday.
“We are proud of and thankful for the hardworking senators, representatives, and the governor of our state who came together to advocate for a removal of a flag that has come to symbolize racism, hatred, and injustice,” Jeff Ayers, interim executive director of South Carolina Equality, said in a release. “We are also grateful for the impassioned response of South Carolina’s citizens who have come together throughout the state to take a stand against racial injustice. We may have galvanized around taking down the flag, but we all know that there’s a long road ahead of us as we work to reach SC Equality’s vision of ‘a South Carolina where everyone is equal.’ But this tremendous occasion shows what kind of work can be done in our state when its residents get involved in the political process and legislators reach across the aisle to do what’s right. We hope that this momentum can continue as we continue to work toward equality and justice in our state.”
The flag is scheduled to come down in a simple ceremony at 10 a.m. A state law enforcement honor guard will give the flag to a representative of the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in downtown Columbia. The flag will become part of its collection.
Debates on the placement of Confederate flags and other symbols, including monuments, have galvanized community conversations across the South.
In Charlotte, Mecklenburg County Commissioners are considering what to do with a Confederate memorial near Central Piedmont Community College. The simple marker contains carvings of the battle flag and honors Confederate veterans for a fight which it says “preserved the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the South.” County commissioners heard comments from the public and debated the matter at their last meeting on July 6, but took no action.