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Law brings down Confederate flag at South Carolina's Statehouse

Published 09/07/2015

Pro-confederate flag demonstrator William Wells (L) chants
Pro-confederate flag demonstrator William Wells (L) chants "heritage not hate" next to an anti-confederate flag demonstrator (R) outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

South Carolina's governor Nikki Haley has signed a bill into law that will bring down the Confederate flag outside the Statehouse, a move that seemed unthinkable only a month ago in the Southern state that was the first to secede from the Union.

The mass shooting at a historic black church last month, by a suspect who had posed in photos with the Civil War-era battle flag, led to the change. Police said the shootings were racially motivated.

Governor Haley's staff said the flag would be removed during a ceremony on Friday morning and relegated to the state's Confederate Relic Room.

"We will bring it down with dignity, and we will make sure it is stored in its rightful place," Ms Haley said.

The flag first flew over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War and was kept there as a symbol of official opposition to the civil rights movement. Mass protests decades later led to a compromise in 2000 with lawmakers who insisted that the flag symbolised Southern heritage, and it was moved to a corner of the Statehouse grounds.

But even from that lower perch, the historic but divisive symbol remained clearly visible in the centre of town.

Shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof, who has not yet entered a plea to nine counts of murder, re-ignited a debate over the flag's history as a symbol of white superiority and racial oppression.

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Ms Haley moved first, calling on South Carolina lawmakers to vote the flag down. Other Republican lawmakers who have long cultivated the votes of Confederate flag supporters were quickly announcing that other Civil War symbols no longer deserve places of honour.

Pro-confederate flag demonstrators (L) and anti-confederate flag demonstrators (R) stand on opposite side of the South Carolina State House steps in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrators (L) and anti-confederate flag demonstrators (R) stand on opposite side of the South Carolina State House steps in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrators Alice Horky wears confederate flag cowboy boots as she protests atop the South Carolina State House steps in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
The confederate flag flies on the grounds of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrators Jim Horky (R) and his wife Alice (L) stand outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrator Jim Horky stands outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrators walk down the steps of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Six-month old Weston Rich holds a confederate flag as his mother Jamie Lewis (not seen) demonstrates outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrators march to the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrators gather outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
A pro-confederate flag demonstrator drives by chanting as others wave the confederate flag outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-confederate flag protester Jalaudin Abdul-Hamib (C) argues with pro-confederate flag demonstrator William Wells (2nd L) outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrator William Wells (C) chants "heritage not hate" next to an anti-confederate flag demonstrator (R) outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrator William Wells (L) chants "heritage not hate" next to an anti-confederate flag demonstrator (R) outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
A pro-confederate flag demonstrator wears a t-shirt that depicts the Confederate legends of the US Civil War outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrator Peter Manos (C) argues with anti-confederate flag protester Jalaudin Abdul-Hamib (L) outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrator Peter Manos (C) argues with anti-confederate flag protester Paladin Abdul-Hamib (L) outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrator William Wells (C) chants "heritage not hate" next to a anti-confederate flag demonstrator (R) outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-confederate flag demonstrators shout outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2015. There has been a growing clamor for the flag -- branded "a reminder of systemic oppression and racist subjugation" by President Barack Obama on Friday -- to be removed from the grounds of the state house in Columbia. Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-owning South, the confederate flag is seen by some as a symbol of regional heritage, but by many more as an ugly reminder of racism's cruel legacy. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This June 24, 2015 file photo shows the Confederate Flag as it flies on the South Carolina State House grounds in Columbia, South Carolina. A woman scaled a flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina State House to remove the Confederate flag June 27, 2015, US media said, amid fierce debate about the racially charged symbol. Police arrested the woman, who is black, as soon as she came down from the 30 foot (nine meter) pole, and the flag was restored to its original position about an hour later, the local Post and Courier newspaper said. Pictures on social media showed a woman, named by online and by media as Bree Newsome, being escorted by a policeman, her hands behind her back. #FreeBree was trending on Twitter. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
State workers take down a Confederate national flag on the grounds of the state Capitol, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordered Confederate flags taken down from a monument at the state Capitol. (AP Photo/Martin Swant)
Protesters hold a sign during a rally to take down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. For years, South Carolina lawmakers refused to revisit the Confederate flag on Statehouse grounds, saying the law that took it off the dome was a bipartisan compromise, and renewing the debate would unnecessarily expose divisive wounds. The shooting deaths of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C., have reignited calls for the Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the Statehouse in Columbia to come down. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
An Alabama state trooper stands guard as a pro-Confederate rally is held at the Alabama state capitol building on Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. The rally was held by locals and members of several Southern heritage organizations who oppose the recent removal of Confederate flags from a monument at the capitol honoring Confederate Civil War soldiers. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
James Perry of Macon County stands on the Capitol steps during for a rally to protest the removal of Confederate flags from the Confederate Memorial Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
A Confederate flag flies at the base of Stone Mountain Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in Stone Mountain, Ga. At Georgia's iconic Stone Mountain - where the Confederacy is enshrined in a giant bas-relief sculpture, the Ku Klux Klan once held notorious cross-burnings and rebel battle flags still wave prominently, officials are considering what to do about those flags. The park, which now offers family-friendly fireworks and laser light shows, is readying its "Fantastic Fourth Celebration" Thursday through Sunday, and multiple Confederate flag varieties are still displayed at the mountain's base. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Wayne Morrison holds a Confederate flag at Alabama State Capitol building during a Confederate flag rally on Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. (Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP) NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
A man holds a Confederate flag at Alabama State Capitol building during a Confederate flag rally on Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. (Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP) NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
Police surround the flagpole flying the Confederate battle flag at a Confederate monument at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, June, 27, 2015 as Bree Newsome of Charlotte, N.C. climbs the pole to remove the banner. She was taken into custody when she came down. The flag was raised again by capitol workers about 45 minutes later. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
Bree Newsome of Charlotte, N.C., climbs a flagpole to remove the Confederate battle flag at a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, June, 27, 2015. She was taken into custody when she came down. The flag was raised again by capitol workers about 45 minutes later. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
Bree Newsome of Charlotte, N.C., right, is taken into custody after she removed the Confederate battle flag from a monument in front of the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, June, 27, 2015. The flag was raised again by capitol workers about 45 minutes later. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
Attendees of a pro-Confederate flag rally hold flags and listen to speakers at the Alabama state capitol building on Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. The rally was held by locals and members of several Southern heritage organizations who oppose the recent removal of Confederate flags from a monument at the capitol honoring Confederate Civil War soldiers. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
Attendees of a pro-Confederate flag rally listen to speakers on the steps of the Alabama state capitol building on Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. The rally was held by locals and members of several Southern heritage organizations who oppose the recent removal of Confederate flags from a monument at the capitol honoring Confederate Civil War soldiers. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Jaluladin Abdul-Hamib shouts "Take It Down" while engaging with a group of demonstrators on the grounds of the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: A group of demonstrators climbs the steps of the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Ben Crosby, of Walterboro, South Carolina joins a group of demonstrators at the South Carolina State House while calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: A group of demonstrators demonstrates at the top of the steps of the South Carolina State House while calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Ben Crosby, of Walterboro, South Carolina joins a group of demonstrators on the steps of the South Carolina State House while calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Alice Dixie Horky, of Greenville, South Carolina joins a group of demonstrators on the steps of the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Alice Dixie Horky, of Greenville, South Carolina joins a group of demonstrators on the steps of the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Hugh Crawford of Lexington, South Carolina speaks with his daughter Holli Crawford, age 7, as they join a group of demonstrators on the grounds of the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Demonstrators protest at the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Demonstrators protest at the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Barbie Byrd, of Columbia, South Carolina joins a group of demonstrators on the grounds of the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Jaluladin Abdul-Hamib (C) argues with a group of demonstrators on the grounds of the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Demonstrators protest at the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Demonstrators protest at the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Mr Haley said the nine pens she used to sign the bill would go to the families of the victims.

South Carolina's flag removal bill passed easily in the Senate, where state Senator Clementa Pinckney, the pastor gunned down at the church, had served, but was stalled by debate in the House as dozens of amendments were proposed.

House members deliberated well into the night, amid anger, tears and shared memories of Civil War ancestors.

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Representative Jenny Horne, a white Republican who said she is a descendent of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, scolded her party members for stalling.

"I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday," she.

The bill ultimately passed 93-27 in the House - well above the two-thirds supermajority needed to make changes to the state's "heritage" symbols. Some lawmakers hugged, cried and high-fived, while others snapped selfies and pumped their fists.

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