SC Gov. Nikki Haley calls for removal of confederate flag from statehouse grounds

Confederate flag outside of South Carolina capitol building. Courtesy of WCBD

CHARLESTON, SC -South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley held a press conference Monday afternoon calling for the removal of the confederate flag from the SC Statehouse grounds.

An excerpt from Governor Nikki Haley’s speech:

“…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 a time of great 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, as we have done, while still being home to both of those viewpoints.  We do not need to declare a winner and a loser.  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 the past week call upon all of 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 remove the flag from atop the Capitol dome.  Today, we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.  One hundred 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 the flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state…”

An earlier press conference in North Charleston, SC a group of Charleston-area political and religious leaders are called on state lawmakers to vote this week to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s capital grounds.

Officials including Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. and Democratic state Sen. Marlon Kimpson in North Charleston on Monday called on legislators to stay in session and vote as early as Tuesday to take down the flag from its place in front of the statehouse in Columbia.

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 lies in state at the Statehouse on Wednesday. Pinckney and eight other church members were shot to death last week as they attended Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.

Kimpson says he’s informed state Senate leaders that there is a “growing chorus” of members interested in taking up a debate while lawmakers are in session to discuss the budget.

With Representative John R. King (D-York) leading the charge, 6 members of the SC Legislative Black Caucus are set to introduce a resolution tomorrow that will amend the Sine Die Resolution to allow debate to begin on removal of the confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds and hate crime legislation.
“It is time for the General Assembly to take responsibility for the people of South Carolina,” states Rep. King.  “After last Wednesday, there is no denying that hate crime legislation is needed.  We are behind the times and leaving our citizens vulnerable. We must act now to do everything we can to protect the citizens of South Carolina and that includes the removal of the confederate battle flag. We cannot wait until January. It starts tomorrow June 23rd”.

The members include, Rep. Mia McLeod  (D-Richland), Rep. Pat Henegan (D-Marlboro), Rep. Chris Hart (D-Richland), Rep. Harold Mitchell (D-Spartanburg), Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston).   Further information will be released on tomorrow, June 23rd after the resolution is voted upon.

The White House says President Barack Obama believes the Confederate flag should no longer be flown in Charleston, South Carolina, or elsewhere, but doesn’t have authority over that decision.

Spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama has maintained for years that the Confederate flag “should be taken down and placed in a museum where it belongs,” but recognizes it’s an issue for individual states.

Read more: Charleston church shooting

Earnest says it’s very clear what Obama thinks would be the appropriate action.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans says it plans to vigorously fight any effort to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of South Carolina’s Statehouse.

The group says it was horrified at last week’s shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, allegedly by a white man who was photographed several times holding the Confederate flag and with other symbols of white supremacy.

In a statement, the group says there is “absolutely no link” between the massacre and the banner.

Leland Summers, South Carolina commander of the group, says the group is about heritage and history, not hate. He offered condolences to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and says now is not the time to make political points.

Summers said the Sons of Confederate Veterans have 30,000 members nationwide that will fight any attempt to move the flag.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press/WCBD. All rights reserved.

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