Update: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed the law mandating the permanent removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds. Nine of the pens used to sign the law were given to the families of those lost in the Charleston church massacre.
After an emotional series of debates in South Carolina’s legislative chambers, both the state Senate and House voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the public grounds. Gov. Nikki Haley already expressed support for the measure and will sign the bill at 4 p.m. on Thursday
She issues a statement following the final vote:
“Today, as the Senate did before them, the House of Representatives has served the State of South Carolina and her people with great dignity. 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.”
Republican State Representative Jenny Anderson Horne took to the floor amid discussions on amendments that would have elongated the approval process and delivered an emotional plea for “immediate and swift removal” of the flag. The appeal has already earned Horne national media attention and thrust her to the center of the stage on the issue.
She spoke of attending the funeral for slain State Senator Clementa Pickney.
“We can save for another day where this flag needs to go,” she said. Horne went on to point to Black members of the state House, calling each representative her friend and saying this flag was an affront to their dignity.
Horne then burst into tears, exclaiming:
“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! And if any of you vote to amend, you are ensuring this flag will fly beyond Friday! And for the widow of Senator Pickney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury, and I will not be a part of it! And for all of these reasons, I will not vote to amend this bill today!
She received a standing ovation from many members of the body after concluding:
If we vote to amend, we are telling the people of Charleston, ‘We don’t care about you. We do not care that someone used this symbol of hate to slay eight innocent people who were worshipping their God. I’m sorry, I have heard enough about heritage. I have a heritage. I am a lifelong South Carolinian. I am a descendant of Jefferson Davis, okay? But that does not matter! […] We need to follow the example of the Senate, remove this flag and do it today!”
The controversy over Confederate imagery is already having ripple effects at the national level, where the US House was forced to table a spending bill over disagreement about the bill’s provisions for displaying the Confederate battle flag on federal cemetery grounds.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is urging members of both parties to meet and discuss the “thorny” issue in the hopes the issue won’t dissolve into a partisan sparring match. Boehner also said he does not believe the Confederate battle flag should be displayed at any public cemetery.
Care2 consistently opposes government-sanctioned use of the Confederate flag and applauds South Carolina for standing on the right side of history by removing an ugly symbol of oppression that has absolutely no place on public grounds.