Gov. Nikki Haley ensured the Confederate battle flag will come down at 10 a.m. Friday after signing the bill that removes the banner from the State House grounds into law Thursday.
Taking down the Confederate flag that had flown at the State House for five decades became a legislative priority after nine African-Americans were gunned down at a historic Emanuel AME Church last month.
"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," Haley said.
The nine members of Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston took in someone that did not look like them or act like them, Haley said, referring to accused shooter Dylann Roof.
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Roof is charged with shooting the nine victims after a Bible Study, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church.
"(W)ith true love, and true faith and true acceptance, they sat and prayed with him for an hour," Haley said. "That love and faith was so strong that it brought grace to their families."
Family members of the Charleston shooting victims joined Haley at the bill signing including:
▪ Malcolm Graham, brother of librarian Cynthia Hurd who was killed
▪ Annie Simmons the wife of Rev. Daniel Simmons who was killed
▪ Daniel Simmons, Jr, son of Simmons
▪ Harrison Rearden, a family friend of Simmons
"We saw the families show the world what true forgiveness and grace looked like," Haley said.
That led to S.C. lawmakers acting swiftly to remove the Confederate flag, Haley said.
Many S.C. public officials, including House members and Senators who extensively debated bringing down the flag this week stood with Haley for the historic occasion.
Pressure for S.C. lawmakers to take down the flag erupted after photos emerged on the internet of accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof posing with the Confederate flag.
The S.C. House approved the bill to take down the flag just after 1 a.m. Thursday. The Senate had already passed the bill Tuesday.
The debate was heated at times with some lawmakers wanting to protect the heritage of Confederate ancestors. But the Legislature agreed overwhelmingly to a bill that not only removes the flag but takes down the flagpole.
"We saw members start to see what it was like to be in each other’s shoes," Haley said. "Start to see what it felt like. We heard about the true honor of heritage and tradition. We heard about the true pain that many had felt, and we took the time to understand it."
Three former governors, Republican David Beasley, Democrat Jim Hodges, and Democrat Dick Riley who had called for the flag to come down in the aftermath of the shooting also joined Haley.
Haley noted former Gov. Beasley started the Confederate flag debate almost two decades ago.
"The last time I saw him, I said: ‘You started it," and he said ‘Well, I need you to finish it," Haley recalled.
While calling removing the flag 30 to 40 years past due, Joseph Darby, presiding elder of the AME Church's Beaufort district, said the historic legislative decision is a "reminder of what happens when people are willing to put aside political expediency and do what's right."
Darby hopes the goodwill built from banishing the flag will lead to improvements in education and healthcare.
"It's a nice start that will take us toward a new day," he said.
At 10 a.m. Friday the flag will be taken down by state law enforcement honor guard and delivered to the Relic Room.
"We are a state that believes in tradition. We’re a state that believes in history. We’re a state that believes in respect. So we will bring it down with dignity, and we will make sure it is put in its rightful place."
Charles Joyner, a Southern historian who has advocated the Confederate flag coming down for decades, said he hopes people have leaned that honoring ancestors is a private matter and not meant to be sanctioned by law. (Read Joyner's history on the flag)
"I think this is a giant step," Joyner said. "When something ends, you have a chance for something to begin."
The flag will be displayed at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum roughly a mile down Gervais Street.
"The history of the actions that took place by everyone in South Carolina to get us to this moment is one that we can all be proud of."
If You Go
Large crowds are expected; Barricades will be set up around front of State House.
Time : 10 a.m.
Street closings: Gervais and Main streets in front of the Capitol will be closed.
Weapons: Weapons, including guns and knives, are banned.
What people are saying about the bill signing
US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
“This is a historic day in South Carolina. I want to congratulate the leadership and members of the South Carolina State Legislature for voting to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from Statehouse grounds and put it in a museum. After the horrific tragedy in Charleston, our state could have gone down one of two paths – division or reconciliation. I am thankful we chose the path of reconciliation.
“To the families of the Charleston Nine, you are the true heroes of this historic moment in South Carolina. To all the members of the state legislature and Governor Haley, I say well done.”
Source: Graham legislative office
US Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)
“By voting to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, the General Assembly sent the signal that our state will move forward together, united as one South Carolina. Governor Haley’s quick signature on the legislation solidifies that point.
"The Confederate battle flag did not cause the hateful, racist actions that left nine families and our entire state grieving, and it remains part of our state's rich and provocative history. But for so many, the flag signifies pain and division that has no home here, and that does not represent the present or the future of our great state. I do not believe that the vast majority of those who support the flag have hate in their hearts, but it is clear that this is the right step forward for our state.
"During a time of immeasurable pain, the families of the Emanuel 9 showed us the future of South Carolina: unity, compassion, righteousness, and love. And while we cannot bring their loved ones back, they have given us those gifts that will last forever.”
Source: Scott legislative office