Confederate flag still flies in SC capital, sparking debate

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SC Confederate Flag Flies High While US Flag Is At Half-Staff

This week's fatal shooting at a historic black church in Charleston has sparked a controversy over a long-held tradition in South Carolina of flying the flag of the Confederacy near the state capitol.

In tribute to the nine churchgoers killed in Charleston this week, two flags atop the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, have been lowered to half-staff -- but not the Confederate flag, which continues to fly high.

What may seem like an unfortunate oversight is in fact a state law.

"In South Carolina, the governor does not have legal authority to alter the flag," South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's press secretary told ABC News. "Only the General Assembly can do that."

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Confederate flag still flies in SC capital, sparking debate
The Confederate flag is seen waving behind the monument of the victimes of the Confederation Army during the American Civil War in front of the State Congress building in Columbia, South Carolina on June 19, 2015. Police captured the white suspect in a gun massacre at one of the oldest black churches in Charleston in the United States, the latest deadly assault to feed simmering racial tensions. Police detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shown wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in pictures taken from social media, after nine churchgoers were shot dead during bible study on Wednesday. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
The Confederate flag flies near the South Carolina Statehouse, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Tensions over the Confederate flag flying in the shadow of South Carolina’s Capitol rose this week in the wake of the killings of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Gov. Nikki Haley addresses a full church during a prayer vigil held at Morris Brown AME Church for the victims of Wednesday's shooting at Emanuel AME Church on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday in the slayings of several people, including the pastor, at a prayer meeting inside the historic black church. (Grace Beahm/The Post And Courier via AP, Pool)
The Confederate flag flies on the dome of the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., Friday, June 30, 2000. The flag will come down from the dome during a ceremony Saturday along with Confederate flags that fly in the House and Senate chambers. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)
Kevin Gray, of the Harriett Tubman Freedom House, watches as the Confederate flag burns during a demonstration Wednesday, May 10, 2000, in Columbia, S.C., in protest of the Confederate flag flying atop the dome of the South Carolina Statehouse. On the left side was a nazi flag which burned first. (AP Photo/Lou Krasky)
COLUMBIA, SC - JANUARY 21: Dr. John Cobin of Greenville, South Carolina holds signs in support of displaying the Confederate flag at a Martin Luther King Day rally January 21, 2008 in Columbia, South Carolina. Cobin is a member of the League of the South, a Southern nationalist organization. All three major Democratic candidates for President spoke to a large crowd on the state house grounds. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
A Confederate flag is seen on the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse after the lowering of the Confederate flag from dome of the Statehouse Saturday, July 1, 2000, in Columbia, S.C. The Confederate flag, for some a symbol of slavery and others a tribute to their Southern heritage, was removed Saturday where it had flown for 38 years. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
A Confederate flag flies on the grounds of the Statehouse, in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Jan. 21, 2008, during a Martin Luther King Day rally. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
COLUMBIA, SC - MAY 02: A descendant of Confederate soldiers pauses during prayer during a memorial service at Elmwood Cemetery on May 2, 2015 in Columbia, SC. Confederate Memorial Day is a official state holiday in South Carolina and honors those that served during the Civil War. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - MAY 02: A member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy walks past graves of Confederate soldiers during a memorial service at Elmwood Cemetery on May 2, 2015 in Columbia, SC. Confederate Memorial Day is a official state holiday in South Carolina and honors those that served during the Civil War. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
The Confederate flag flies near the South Carolina Statehouse, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Tensions over the Confederate flag flying in the shadow of South Carolina’s Capitol rose this week in the wake of the killings of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
COLUMBIA, SC - APRIL 6: Confederate flag supporters demonstrate on the north steps of the capitol building 06 April, 2000 in Columbia, SC. The US southern state is split into two factions -- those for and those against the Confederate flag remaining above the capitol building. The 'Get in Step with the People of South Carolina' march, led by Charleston, SC, mayor Joe Riley, started in Charleston on 02 April, 2000 and proceeded approximately 120 miles to the captial of Columbia to protest the flag's placement above the capitol. (Photo credit should read ERIK PEREL/AFP/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 1: Anti-Confederate flag protesters demonstrate in front of the Capitol, 01 July 2000, in Columbia, SC to protest the placement of the Confederate battle flag on the statehouse grounds. The Confederate flag was removed from atop the statehouse dome and the Confederate battle flag was raised in front of the Confederate Soldier Monument. (Photo credit should read ERIK PEREL/AFP/Getty Images)
The Confederate flag flies near the South Carolina Statehouse, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. Tensions over the Confederate flag flying in the shadow of South Carolina’s Capitol rose this week in the wake of the killings of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
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On Friday Republican State Rep. Doug Brannon announced he would be introducing legislation to take the flag down.

"I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than he was a black man," he said during an interview on MSNBC. "Senator Pinckney was an incredible human being. I don't want to talk politics, but I'm going to introduce the bill for that reason."

While the country is divided on the rebel banner, it's legally protected under the South Carolina Heritage Act. Gov. Haley said during her campaign last year that there was no need to take down the Confederate flag, but now is seems to be changing her tune.

"I think the state will start talking about that again, and we'll see where it goes," Haley told CBS News on Friday.

A recent poll conducted by SurveyMonkey found that nation is split when it comes to the Confederate flag. 49% of Americans see it as a sign of racism, while another 49% see it as a symbol of southern pride. The other 2% had no opinion.

People began targeting the flag on Twitter with the hashtag #TakeItDown, with some directly calling out the governor.

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