The South Carolina House has approved taking down the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, after a national debate over what the flag represents was sparked last month after a shooting that killed nine people in a historic black church in Charleston, the Associated Press (AP) reported early Thursday.
South Carolina state House members celebrated as the Confederate flag bill passed by a 93-27 vote, according to the second reading. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley is now expected to sign the bill, which was approved by a two-thirds margin, and the flag is expected to come down within days.
"Today, as the Senate did before them, the House of Representatives has served the State of South Carolina and her people with great dignity. I'm grateful for their service and their compassion. It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state," Haley wrote on her Facebook page.
The debate about the symbolism of the Confederate flag was reignited after last month's shooting deaths of nine black worshipers at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Shooter Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white American, who told authorities he wanted to start a race war, was reportedly inspired by the Civil War-era Confederate symbol.
Steve Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, posted a statement in reaction to the House vote in a series of tweets, which read:
"This moment is about more than a flag or a vote. It's about the hope that now, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, we have grown beyond our differences and have begun to grow together. This is not the end of division, of prejudice or of hate. But it is the beginning of something new. If we can hold on to it and to each other, if we can nurture that hope and help it grow, then we will have something more precious than history. We will have a future."
— Steve Benjamin (@SteveBenjaminSC) July 9, 2015
The bill requires that the flag be taken down within 24 hours after the governor signs it. After it is taken down, the flag will be sent to the Confederate Relic Room, AP reported. Haley has promised to sign the bill quickly but has not mentioned when.