Update, 5:00 p.m.: As expected, Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag that flies outside South Carolina’s statehouse at a Monday press conference in Columbia, the state’s capital. Haley praised the motivations of some of the flag’s defenders but said the symbol “does not belong in the future of our great state.” Here’s the section of her remarks that dealt most directly with the issue:
For many people in our state the flag stands for traditions that are noble—traditions of history, of heritage, and of ancestry. The hate-filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it. Those South Carolinians view the flag as a symbol of respect, integrity, and duty. They also see it as a memorial, a way to honor ancestors who came to the service of their state during time of conflict. That is not hate. Nor is it racism.
At the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past. As a state, we can survive and indeed we can thrive while still being home to both of those viewpoints. We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here. We respect freedom of expression, and for those who wish to show their respect for the flag on their private property, no one will stand in your way. But the statehouse is different, and the events of this past week call upon us to look at this in a different way. Fifteen years ago after much contentious debate South Carolina came together in a bipartisan way to move the flag from atop the capitol. Today, we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say—it’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds. [Applause]
A hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come. There will be some in our state who see this as a sad moment. I respect that. But know this: For good and for bad, whether it is on the statehouse grounds or in a museum, the flag will always be a part of the soil of South Carolina. But this is a moment in which we can say that that flag, while an integral part of our past, does not belong in the future of our great state.
The murderer now locked up in Charleston said he hoped his actions would star a race war. We have an opportunity to show that not only was he wrong, but that just the opposite is happening. My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven.
Haley, who later added the “fact that people are choosing to use [the flag] as a sign of hate is something we cannot stand,” said she expects the state’s legislature (whose regular session is over) to take special action on the flag issue and will use her power to call an emergency session if necessary. Both of South Carolina’s U.S. senators and a number of other representatives appeared behind Haley at her press conference and are said to also support the flag’s removal.
Original post, 2:29 p.m.: Gov. Nikki Haley will call for the removal of the Confederate flag that flies outside South Carolina’s statehouse, the Charleston Post and Courier reports, while CNN says Sen. Lindsey Graham will also say the flag should come down.
In the past, Haley and Graham have both defended the flag’s prominent position. Said Graham in 2000 in the New York Times:
“There is a guy out there named Bubba. He grew up when public schools got integrated. He goes to work every day. There are women and African-Americans in the workplace and he’s fine with that, but he thinks the whole world is against him and has rights he doesn’t have. He thinks the flag is the last thing he has going for him and he’s not going to take it down. I don’t want to step on Bubba’s feelings. There are no groups sticking up for the Bubbas of the world.”
Because of a law enacted after a similar controversy in 2000, the flag can be moved only by a two-thirds vote of the South Carolina Legisulature, which is not currently supposed to be in session but is meeting to resolve budget issues. The Post and Courier says that action on the flag issue could be shoehorned into bills related to the budget negotiations.