South Carolina governor Nikki Haley signs bill to remove Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The latest on the Confederate flag debate in the South Carolina (all times local):


South Carolina’s governor has signed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds, more than 50 years after it was raised in protest of the civil rights movement.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill Thursday on the second floor of the Statehouse, where through a window the secessionist battle flag was visible outside. She was surrounded by the family members of those killed in the church shooting last month.

The law requires the flag to be removed and placed in the state’s Confederate Relic Room. Haley says it will come down at 10 a.m. Friday.

The push to bring down the flag began after state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight other people were gunned down during their Bible study inside a historic black church. Police said it was racially motivated, and photographs emerged showing the suspect posing with Confederate flags.

4:05 p.m.

Hundreds of people are crowded into the South Carolina Statehouse as they await Gov. Nikki Haley’s bill signing ceremony to bring down the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds.

Haley is expected to show up any moment. People are cheering and even chanting “USA.”

The bill was proposed after nine black church members, including a state senator, were killed last month in Charleston.

3:45 p.m.

The NAACP will introduce an emergency resolution at its national convention this weekend to lift its 15-year economic boycott of South Carolina, following the state legislature’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds.

NAACP president Cornell William Brooks said Thursday that the church massacre last month and the “brutality of this moment spoke to the country in ways that a boycott alone would not do.

“But be clear, the prospect of a bigger boycott, more economic sanctions, were effective,” he said.

The NAACP announced its statewide boycott when the flag was in front of the Statehouse in 2000. The boycott was observed by the NCAA, United Auto Workers and others.

3:25 p.m.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says he supports the removal of some Confederate symbols, but extreme measures represent “political correctness run amok.”

“Where do we draw the line?” Hogan said Thursday. “Some of this is our history. We could get into an hours-long discussion about what we should or shouldn’t do, but I think that it’s getting to the point it’s gone too far.”

Since the killing of nine people at a historic black church in South Carolina last month, calls have grown louder across the country demanding the removal of the Confederate flag from merchandise, license plates and flag poles above statehouses.

Hogan, a Republican, said only about 150 people would be affected by recalling Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates, which have the image of the Confederate flag. His administration is looking into it.

2:55 p.m.

One of the most vocal critics of legislation to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s Statehouse says he feels like it’s time for the state to move toward healing, as the country did at the end of the Civil War.

“It’s just like the conclusion of the war itself,” Rep. Mike Pitts told The Associated Press on Thursday. “The issue was settled, and the nation came back together to move on.”

Pitts, who offered amendment after amendment during a debate Wednesday, said he won’t attend the governor’s bill signing Thursday or the ceremony to bring the flag down Friday because he is returning to his district to spend time with family after an exhausting legislative session.

During the debate, Pitts recalled playing with a Confederate ancestor’s cavalry sword while growing up, and has said the flag is a reminder of how dirt-poor Southern farmers fought Yankees not because they hated blacks or supported slavery, but because their land was being invaded.

2:15 p.m.

Mississippi is the only state that includes the Confederate battle emblem in its state flag.

The rebel X has been there since 1894. In a 2001 statewide election, people voted nearly 2-to-1 to keep the design.

After the Charleston church massacre, Mississippi’s House speaker became the first top-tier Republican in the GOP-controlled state to say Mississippi should change its flag by removing the Confederate emblem he said had become offensive to many. The state’s two Republican U.S. senators also advocated change, but the Republican governor and lieutenant governor say they stand by the 2001 election.

Chad Haden, 34, of Braxton, Mississippi, said one of his ancestors fought for the Confederacy and he wants to keep the state flag as it is. Haden said he disagrees with people who see the flag as a reminder of slavery.

“It’s like they’re trying to take one bad thing from us, slavery, and they ignore the progress that was made before the war. They try to make us the villain. I’ve got a question: Is it just a hatred of southerners?”

1:45 p.m.

Outside South Carolina’s Statehouse, dozens of people are walking by to take pictures or selfies with the Confederate flag — and most of them are happy to see it go.

Only a few flag supporters were there Thursday afternoon. Daniel Newton says he is ordering six different types of Confederate flags online to put up in his yard as a shrine. He says the vote Thursday to take the Confederate flag off Statehouse grounds shows the world wants to destroy Southern culture.

About 40 feet away, J.E. Wright took a photo of the flag on his phone. He protested in 2000 to get the Confederate flag off the dome and wanted the picture to celebrate its demise.

Wright says he is impressed how God used people like Gov. Nikki Haley and other Republicans to change the world.

Cars honked as they passed by. People held signs reading: “Statehouse Not Hate House.”

12:20 p.m.

People who believe the Confederate flag honors their ancestors say they’re trying to come to grips with the reality that the banner will soon be gone from the South Carolina Statehouse.

This week, Confederate flag supporter Nelson Waller stood outside the Statehouse in his rebel flag tie and rallied to save the banner. But the legislature has passed a bill to remove it, and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley says she’ll sign it into law Thursday afternoon.

Waller says he isn’t coming back for Friday’s ceremony when the flag is pulled down.

He says he feels betrayed by his state leaders. He says the flag had nothing to do with Dylann Roof, the white man charged with fatally shooting nine black churchgoers in Charleston. The massacre last month reignited the debate over the flag.

Waller calls the flag a symbol of the valor of brave Southern soldiers defending their homes.

Waller says: “They won’t be happy until every state is identical to every other state. There will be no more regional culture.”

12:10 p.m.

A South Carolina House member who opposed the measure to remove a Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds says he fears the move could be part of a regional or nationwide campaign targeting Confederate and Civil War-era history.

Republican Rep. Jonathon Hill said hours after the House vote Thursday that he’s happy no move has been made to remove any monuments from the Statehouse grounds along with the flag. He advised other states considering the removal of Confederate symbols to “proceed carefully.”

He says: “Hopefully it ends here, and we move forward, and we can put all of this behind us.”

Hill was among 27 House members who opposed removing the flag on a key vote. He says he won’t attend the governor’s signing of the bill Thursday afternoon or the Friday morning ceremony to remove the flag because of obligations in his home district.

11:10 a.m.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Nikki Haley says the Confederate flag will be removed from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds on Friday morning.

Spokeswoman Chaney Adams says the flag will come down in a ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday. He did not give any other details.

Haley has said she will sign the bill to remove the flag at 4 p.m. Thursday. The House passed the bill early Thursday. The measure says the flag must be removed within 24 hours of her signature.

The Confederate flag has flown on the Statehouse grounds for 54 years since being put up as a protest of the civil rights movement.

Haley and other conservatives didn’t begin a push to remove the flag until nine black churchgoers were killed in a church shooting in Charleston by a gunman who police say was motivated by racial hatred.

11:05 a.m.

The House is about to put its members on record on whether Confederate flags can decorate rebel graves in historic federal cemeteries and if their sale should be banned in national park gift shops.

The vote comes after Southern lawmakers complained that they were sandbagged two nights ago when the House voted — without a recorded tally — to ban the display of Confederate flags at historic federal cemeteries and strengthen Park Service policy against its sale in gift shops.

It’s unclear how the vote will turn out, but momentum against the flag’s display on public land has skyrocketed after last month’s tragic slaughter at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Early Thursday, the state legislature finalized a bill to remove the flag from Statehouse grounds. Gov. Nikki Haley says she’ll sign it Thursday afternoon. It must be removed 24 hours after her signature.

10:25 a.m.

Gov. Nikki Haley says she will sign the bill removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Haley’s office didn’t immediately say when the flag would be removed, but the bill requires it to happen within 24 hours of her signature.

Moments after Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster ratified the bill, Haley made the announcement that she would sign it in the Statehouse lobby that afternoon. The bill passed the state House at 1 a.m. Thursday.

The Confederate flag has flown on the Statehouse grounds for 54 years since being put up as a protest of the civil rights movement.

Haley and other conservatives didn’t begin a push to remove the flag until nine black churchgoers were killed in a church shooting in Charleston by a gunman who police say was motivated by racial hatred.

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