Amidst a wave of opposition against the Confederate flag and what it represents, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced today a call for the removal of the flag from the state capitol grounds.
During a press conference held this afternoon, Governor Haley acknowledged the heartbreak over the tragic murder of nine individuals at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The man accused of the attack, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, had reportedly written a “racist manifesto” that he published on a website registered in February under his name. The website, which is no longer accessible, bore images of the Confederate flag, sparking national debate on the Confederate flag as a symbol of hatred.
“Our state is grieving,” Governor Haley said during the press conference. “But we are also coming together. The outpouring of love and support from all corners of people across this state and country has been amazing.” It was in that spirit of coming together, she said, that she will have the Confederate flag at the capitol taken down.
Just yesterday, tens of thousands of people joined together to march to the top of the Ravenel Bridge, called the Bridge to Peace. The demonstration honored the nine people killed inside the church last week—Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Tywanza Sanders, Susie Jackson and Depayne Middleton Doctor.
Some members of the public have expressed outrage at the government for its response to the murders in Charleston, including one woman who called President Barack Obama an “Uncle Tom” during a live broadcast on CNN.
Several politicians and members of the media have made public statements directing the leadership in South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag, popularizing the hashtag #ConfederateFlag and #Charleston. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook and Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff also called on South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag.
More from the press conference:
“We were recently named the friendliest state in the country, and the most patriotic too,” Governor Haley remarked. “American flags fly proudly from home to home in South Carolina. In just the last few months, the nation watched our state go through another time of crisis, when we dealt with the betrayal of one of our own in the tragic shooting of Walter Scott. South Carolina did not respond with rioting and violence, like other places have. We responded by talking to each other, by putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, and by finding common ground in the name of moving our state forward.
“The result? Both Republicans and Democrats, black and white, came together and passed the first body camera bill in the country. And I stand in front of you, a minority female governor, twice elected by the people of South Carolina. Behind me stands my friend, Sen. Tim Scott, elected by those same people as one of just two African-American members of the United States Senate.
“Five years ago, it was said that in the last 50 years, South Carolina is the state that has changed the most for the better. That was true when I quoted it at my first inauguration in 2011. It’s even more true today. We have changed through the times, and we will continue to do so. But that does not mean we forget our history.
“History is often filled with emotion. And that is more true in South Carolina than a lot of other places. On matters of race, South Carolina has a tough history. We all know that. Many of us have seen it in our own lives, and in the lives of our parents and grandparents. We don’t need reminders.
“In spite of last week’s tragedy, we have come a long way since those days and have much to be proud of. But there is more we can do. That brings me to the subject of the Confederate flag that flies on the state house grounds. 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 the ancestors who came to the service of their state during time of 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 those viewpoints. We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here. We respect freedom of expression, and for those who wish to show their respect for the flag on your private property, no one will stand in your way.
“But the state house is different, and the events of this past week call upon 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 move the flag from atop the capitol dome. Today, we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say that it’s time to move the flag from capitol grounds.”
Watch the full speech above and share your thoughts on the decision in the comments below.