South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a historic bill Thursday that will remove the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol grounds, where it has been a source of friction for more than half a century.
Haley’s signature ends the fighting over the flag, seen as an emblem of Southern heritage by some but condemned as a symbol of racial oppression by others.
The flag flew over the dome of South Carolina’s Capitol in 1961 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the war — and stayed as a protest to the civil rights movement that shattered Jim Crow segregationist laws across the South. After protests from civil rights leaders, the battle flag was moved in 2000 from the dome to its current location on the Capitol’s front lawn.
Haley said the flag will “come down with dignity” at 10 a.m. Eastern time Friday. The banner will be taken to the state’s Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum for display.
“The Confederate flag is coming off the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse,” Haley told the overflow crowd. “We will bring it down with dignity and we will make sure it is stored in its rightful place.”
Haley had called for removal of the flag in the wake of the June 17 massacre of nine black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston. A white man, Dylann Roof, who had apparently espoused racist ideologies and who had been photographed with Confederate symbols, is being held on nine murder counts and other charges.
Relatives of those slain at the church were among those in the racially diverse crowd who watched the governor use several pens to sign the legislation, whose passage was all but impossible before the church shootings. The governor praised the dead for changing the debate about the flag and race relations. “These nine pens are going to the families of the Emanuel Nine,” Haley said after signing the bill into law. “Nine amazing individuals who have forever changed South Carolina history.