… and Governor signs the bill.
Jalaludin Abdul-Hamid, a protester against the Confederate flag that flies outside the South Carolina Statehouse, speaks to a flag supporter Tuesday. Photo credit: Sean Rayford
South Carolina’s governor used nine pens Thursday to sign a law that will remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds and send it to a museum.
Each pen, Gov. Nikki Haley said, will go to the families of the nine victims of last month’s massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
By showing forgiveness after the shooting, she said, they caused the change of heart that led to passage of the history-making bill.
“This is a story about the history of South Carolina and how the action of nine individuals laid out this long chain of events that forever showed the state of South Carolina what love and forgiveness looks like,” she said.
Crowds wanting to be part of the event gathered around the flag on the State House grounds and jammed the lobby to witness the signing.
Early Thursday morning, lawmakers in the South Carolina House approved a Senate bill that removes the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds. The measure passed by a two-thirds margin and now Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has signed it into law. The Associated Press reports: As House members deliberated well into the night, there were tears of anger and shared memories of Civil War ancestors. Black Democrats, frustrated at being asked to show grace to Civil War soldiers as the debate wore on, warned the state was embarrassing itself.
The flag, which was removed from the state Capitol dome in 2000, became the focus of controversy after 21-year-old white supremacist and confessed murderer Dylann Roof shot and killed state senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight other parishioners, during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Roof allegedly wanted to start a “race war.” Many took it as an affront to the victims that the Confederate battle flag at the state capitol remained at full mast, even as the U.S. flag flew at half mast.
That touched off a backlash against the flag. Major retailers announced they would stop selling Confederate flags and related merchandise, including: Google, Amazon, Walmart, , Sears, EBay, Etsy, Target, and Spencer Gifts. NASCAR asked fans not to display the flag at NASCAR events, but stopped short of banning it altogether.
Republican lawmakers awkwardly distanced themselves from the Confederate flag, after years of supporting it and courting the constituency that embraced it. Long before she called for the flag to come down, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said shortly after the Emanuel shooting, “It’s him, not the flag,” referring to Roof. During her re-election campaign, Haley defended the flag as merely a symbol of Southern “grit”.
For conservatives, the controversy is an occasion to duck and cover, until the matter blows over. For progressives, it’s a chance to bring together two separate stories about a shared history and heritage, and begin to address how that shared heritage impacts our present.
Defenders of the flag often say it represents “heritage, not hate.” Yet, white supremacy was inherent to slavery as practiced in the South. Confederate leaders said as much, and none so plainly as Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens in his famous “Cornerstone Speech.
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