South Carolina on Thursday cleared the way for the removal of a Confederate flag that had come to be seen as an inspiration for white supremacists such as alleged mass-murderer Dylan Roof.
The state House passed a bill to remove the flag in a late night vote after a contentious debate. It cleared the senate earlier this week and now needs governor Nikki Haley’s signature. She will sign.
“Today, as the Senate did before them, the House of Representatives has served the State of South Carolina and her people with great dignity,” Haley said in a statement. “It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state.”
Roof, the alleged killer of nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, had posed with the flag in several photographs that surfaced in the days after the massacre. It’s a flag that was used by the Confederate Army, of the southern states, that rebelled against the abolition of slavery starting a civil war that lasted four years, from 1861 to 1865.
Their flag continues to be be used in the south. The one on South Carolina statehouse ground in Columbia went up in 1961 in opposition to the civil rights movement. Attempts to remove it in the past failed because of strident opposition from conservatives — even Haley, an Indian American, was fine with it till last year.
The Charleston massacre changed everything. Republican leader Mitt Romney, who ran for White House in 2012, was among the first to demand the removal of the flag. Also, while the flag took centerstage, calls mounted for dealing with other celebratory reminders of the civil war — military bases named after confederate generals, for instance.
Fort Hood in Texas, known world over for a 2009 shooting of 13 service personnel by an Army major inspired by jihadi ideology, is named after a confederate general, John Bell Hood.