“This has been a very difficult time for our state,” Haley said. “We have stared evil in the eye. … Our state is grieving, but we are also coming together.”
“Today, we are here to say it is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds,” said Haley, surrounded by top leaders including U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, both Republicans like the governor. The other politicians broke out in cheers during the announcement.
The decision follows days of protests inside the state and growing pressure on Republican leaders to back away from the flag. Roof, 21, is being held on nine murder charges in connection with the shooting last Wednesday. Pictures of Roof have surfaced showing the high school dropout with the flag.
Though she sharply condemned the alleged shooter, Haley noted that the flag represents many positive things for people in her state. “The hate-filled murderer has a sick and twisted view of the flag,” she said, adding, “we have changed through the times and we will continue to do so, but that doesn’t mean we forget our history.”
In calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds, Haley said: “My hope is that moving a symbol that divides we can move forward and honor the nine blessed souls who are in heaven.”
Religious and political leaders including Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said earlier Monday that they would push for the flag’s removal when the Legislature returns. Riley has led protest marches against the flag and has called for its removal from state grounds before.
“The time has come for the Confederate battle flag to move from a public position in front of the state Capitol to a place of history,” Riley said at a televised news conference. The flag “was appropriated years and years ago as a symbol of hate,” Riley said, and should be moved to a museum.
The Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III of the National Action Network said the flag should be removed before the body of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the attack, lies in state on Wednesday. Pinckney was also pastor of Emanuel AME.
Republicans, who control South Carolina’s state Legislature, have rebuffed many previous calls to remove the flag, which dates from the Civil War. For civil rights activists and many others, the flag is a racist symbol of the state’s slave past. The flag has also been adopted by some white supremacist groups in modern times.