(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the state capitol in the wake of the racially charged killing of nine churchgoers in a historic Charleston congregation.
“Today we are here in a moment of unity… without ill will to say it’s time to move the flag from capitol grounds,” she said Monday, and was met with applause.
The removal of the flag from the lawn of the government building, if it is approved by the legislature, would have no effect on those who wish to fly it on their own private property, Haley said.
Many respect the flag as a reminder of ancestors who died in the Civil War, noting that such feelings do not represent “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,” she said.
“We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here,” she said.
While Haley’s declaration means that she is joining the host of local leaders as well as both of the state’s senators in the call, it is not actually her decision whether or not the flag will stay.
State law dictates that two-thirds of the the South Carolina general assembly will have to call for the flag’s removal, and before that they will have to have two-thirds of the assembly vote to extend their session, according to state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, who spoke at the press conference earlier on Monday.
The debate over the Civil War-era flag comes after the shooting spree at Emanuel AME Church, allegedly by Dylann Roof.
“The time has come to remove this symbol of hate and division from our state capitol,” said the Rev. Nelson Rivers, who is a member of the National Action Network and the pastor at a local Baptist church.
The South Carolina state legislature is under pressure to remove the flag after a 21-year-old believed to have been motivated by racism shot and killed nine people in a historically black church in Charleston last week.
The state capitol’s American flag was lowered to half-staff after of the shootings, but the Confederate flag also flown there remained at full-staff because only the state’s general assembly is allowed to order it down.
ABC News can also confirm that both of the state’s Senators, Sen. Tim Scott and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is currently running for president, were expected to call for the flag to be removed.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said that while the flag was originally used to commemorate South Carolina residents who died during the Civil War, “years and years ago [it] was appropriated as a symbol of hate,” he said Monday.
Riley said that it should be removed and put in a historic site or museum, because it “sends the wrong message.”
The group of leaders announced that there will be a rally in front of the state capitol on Tuesday.
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