South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday called on the state Legislature to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds, adding to a growing list of politicians who have asked for the flag to be taken down in the five days following a shooting last week in a Charleston church that killed nine people. The flag’s presence outside the capitol in Columbia has been criticized since the attack as details about the shooter, Dylann Roof, have surfaced showing his racist motivations and celebration of the flag as a symbol of white supremacy.
To add to the controversy, while the state flag and the U.S. national flag were strung at half-staff the day after the shooting, the Confederate flag remained full-staff, and without a pulley to bring it down. In her address Monday, Haley urged state lawmakers to take advantage of a Tuesday budget meeting during which they could vote to extend the legislative session and begin a debate on removing the flag.
“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,” Haley said. “150 years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come.”
Haley mentioned the dueling values put behind the flag, with some in the state revering the Confederate flag, while others see it as deeply racist and offensive. Haley said that for those wanting to display the flag in their own property, that right would not be curtailed. “But the state house is different, and the events of this past week call upon us to look at this in a different way,” she said.
Haley was joined in the South Carolina State House Monday afternoon by Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, both R-S.C., Reps. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Mark Sanford, R-S.C., Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley and state legislators.
The flag is currently padlocked in place, and only the Legislature can vote to take it down. South Carolina was the last state to fly the Confederate battle flag from on top of the capitol dome itself. In 2000, a compromise was reached to move the flag from the top of the building to a monument nearby on the grounds.
Officially, the South Carolina legislative session ended on June 4, but lawmakers are meeting on Tuesday to vote on a budget compromise. If lawmakers want to, they have the option of voting to extend the session so that they can hold a debate on whether to remove the flag. A vote of two-thirds of the South Carolina General Assembly would be needed to extend the session for a Confederate flag debate, and another vote of two-thirds would be needed to remove the flag and put it in a museum.
Others have called for the flag to be removed as well. Graham spoke out in favor of its removal, as have other 2016 Republican hopefuls. Jeb Bush tweeted support for taking the flag down, mentioning that the Confederate flag in Florida, where he was once governor, was removed and put into a museum. Former Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, tweeted that the flag should be taken down. President Barack Obama has called for the flag’s removal as well.
Roof shot nine people in a historic black church in Charleston on Wednesday, and details about his life indicate that a large part of his motivation for doing so was racial hatred. In pictures posted on his website, he is seen waving the Confederate flag and holding a gun. Other photos show him wearing clothes that have flag patches from white-ruled Rhodesia and South Africa sewn on.
The church that Roof attacked, the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, reopened on Sunday.