South Carolina lawmakers have voted to bring down the Confederate flag from the statehouse. The decision comes on the heels of a debate as to whether the emblem should be permitted to hang at the state capitol.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, on July 9, officially signed the bill mandating the flag come down. Early on July 7, one final Senate vote of 36-3 sent the bill to the House. The debate, which began on July 6, was ignited after a shooting, which took place at a predominantly black church in Charleston, North Carolina on June 17, left nine dead, all of whom were black. The shooter was largely thought to be influenced by racism and, following the surfacing of his online manifesto which heavily featured the Confederate flag, action was taken to begin removing the symbol.
“The Confederate flag is coming off the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse,” the governor said in her remarks. “We will bring it down with dignity and we will make sure it is stored in its rightful place.” Once she had signed the bill, Haley added, “May we never forget the actions that those people took to get us to this point today,” speaking of the nine individuals whose lives were lost in the shooting.
In order for the measure to get to the governor’s desk, a two-thirds majority vote in the General Assembly was necessary. Both proponents and opponents were vocal and adamant in debates surrounding the flag, which has hung at the statehouse since 1961.
The bill, which was introduced by democratic senator Vincent Sheheen, proposed that the flag no longer be permitted to fly in its current position, 30 feet in the air, hanging from a pole in front of the Statehouse. “We still have a very serious culture of division in our state — a culture that we, as leaders, have to take a stand to change,” Sheeheen said in his opening remarks. “We can no longer afford to fly a flag on the Statehouse that divides us. It is not about the history, it is not about heritage, and it is not about hate. It is about how to heal wounds that stretch back many years.”
Governor Haley is another one of the many officials who had been calling for the flag to be taken down. Speaking to NBC’s Today before the debate, she said, “When something like this happens, you reflect, and you say, ‘Have we changed enough?'”
Do you think bringing down the flag was the right decision?
— Casey Mink