Activists urge South Carolina capitol to take down rebel flag after massacre

After Charleston, the Confederate Flag Is Still Flying High
South Carolina should remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds, religious and local elected leaders urged on Monday, after a white gunman last week allegedly shot dead nine black worshippers at a historic Charleston church.

The demand for lawmakers to remove the rallying symbol of the pro-slavery South during the U.S. Civil War follows revelations that 21-year-old Dylann Roof, charged with Wednesday's attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, had posted a racist manifesto on the Internet and posed with the flag.

A group of black and white leaders called for a rally Tuesday at the State House in Columbia to bring their demand directly to lawmakers.

"The time has come to remove this symbol of hate and division from our state capitol," said Reverend Nelson Rivers, pastor of the Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, South Carolina.

"The time has come for the General Assembly to do what it ought to have done a long time ago, which is to remove this symbol of divisiveness and even terrorism to some," said Rivers, who is black and works with the National Action Network civil-rights group.

13 PHOTOS
Bridge march in Charleston to protest shooting
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Activists urge South Carolina capitol to take down rebel flag after massacre
People join hands on Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of people march on The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina on June 21, 2015. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of people march on The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina on June 21, 2015. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of people hold hands to form a human chain on The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina on June 21, 2015. Thousands marched in Charleston where nine African Americans were gunned down, as a chilling website apparently created by the suspected white supremacist shooter emerged. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People pray on Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People observe nine minutes of silence on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People return to Charleston after joining hands across Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People pray as other walk on Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People observe nine minutes of silence on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People greet each other after crossing from opposite ends of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People cross the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. People crossed the Bridge from Mount Pleasant and Charleston to join hands in a unity chain to mourn the 9 victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: People pray together after forming a 'unity chain' across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. The march was organized to commemorate the nine people shot to death last Wednesday at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a 21-year-old white supremacist who claimed to want to start a race war. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Opponents of the flag consider it an emblem of slavery and say that it has become a rallying symbol for racism and xenophobia in the United States. Supporters of keeping the flag up say it is a symbol of the South's history and culture.

Roof was arrested on Thursday and charged with nine counts of murder for allegedly gunning down members of a Bible study group at the "Mother Emanuel" church after sitting with them for an hour on Wednesday night.

The attack, in a year in which the United States has been rocked by protests over police killings of unarmed black men, has inflamed a national debate on race relations, policing and the criminal justice system.

President Barack Obama weighed in a podcast posted online on Monday, saying the killings showed the United States still had a long way to go in addressing racism, using an epithet to make his point.

"We're not cured of it," Obama told Mark Maron, host of the "WTF" podcast. "And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists."

16 PHOTOS
First service in Charleston church since shootings
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Activists urge South Carolina capitol to take down rebel flag after massacre
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Jimmy Guyton participates at the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by Paul Zoeller-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Parishioners cry and embrace as they attend the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: People kneel during a prayer at the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by Paul Zoeller-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Juliett Marsh, of Washington, D.C., listens from the balcony at the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by Paul Zoeller-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: The Rev. Norvel Goff speaks at the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by Paul Zoeller-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Parishioners pray as they attend the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Parishioners cry and embrace as they attend the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: The Rev. Norvel Goff speaks at the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Parishioners pray as they attend the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Parishioners Shakur Francis, left, and Karen Watson-Fleming sing as they attend the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Parishioners sing four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of Pinckney and eight others at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: An organist plays music as parishioners take their seats at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of it's pastor and eight others at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: Church member Kevin Polite, right, helps members into the church four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of it's pastor and eight others at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: The Rev. Norvel Goff, right, prays at the empty seat of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of Pinckney and eight others at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by David Goldman-Pool/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 21: People pay respects outside at the first church service four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Chruch elders decided to hold the regularly scheduled Sunday school and worship service as they continue to grieve the shooting death of nine of its members including its pastor earlier this week. (Photo by Paul Zoeller-Pool/Getty Images)
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'DOESN'T BELONG'

South Carolina state representative Doug Brannon, a Republican, said in a phone interview he has drafted legislation to remove the flag from the State House grounds.

"It doesn't belong there. It is a symbol of hurt to a large percentage of this state's population. In my opinion, it's an anchor and is holding us back."

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, was set to make remarks at a press conference at 4:00 p.m. (2000 GMT). She will call for the flag to be removed from the State House grounds, the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.

"The Confederate battle flag years and years ago was appropriated as a symbol of hate," said Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, who is white. "It is a piece of history and it belongs in a history museum."

Riley, who has been the city's mayor for four decades, in 2000 organized a 120-mile (193 km) march from Charleston to the state capital, Columbia, calling for the flag's removal.

The group on Monday spoke in North Charleston, South Carolina, where a former police officer was charged with murdering a black civilian by shooting him in the back after he fled a traffic stop, in an incident captured on video on a bystander's phone.

19 PHOTOS
Charleston, SC shooting - memorials, aftermath
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Activists urge South Carolina capitol to take down rebel flag after massacre
People que to lay flowers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 19, 2015. Police captured the white suspect in a gun massacre at one of the oldest black churches 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 June 17. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People que to lay flowers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 19, 2015. Police captured the white suspect in a gun massacre at one of the oldest black churches 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 June 17. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend a vigil at TD Arena for victims of the recent church shooting June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. For someone reportedly bent on igniting a race war, Dylann Storm Roof had little to say for himself in the first of what will be many court appearances. The 21-year-old suspect in Wednesday night's massacre at an African-American church Bible study class spoke only to answer a judge's questions at a 14-minute bail hearing. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 19: (L-R) Sisters Margaret Kerry, Mary Thecla and Kathleen Lang of the Order of the Daughters of St. Paul pray outside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the death penalty for Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, if he is found guilty of murdering nine people during a prayer meeting at the church Wednesday night. Among the dead is the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church which, according to the National Park Service, is the oldest black congregation in America south of Baltimore. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 18: South Carolina State Senator Joel Lourie (L) comforts Gerald Malloy in the senate chambers June 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Legislators gathered Thursday morning to honor their co-worker Clementa Pinckney and the eight others killed yesterday at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
A man holds up a sign after a vigil outside Morris Brown AME Church June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. US police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People sit on the steps of Morris Brown AME Church while services are held June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. US police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People say a prayer outside Morris Brown AME Church during a vigil June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. US police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People sing 'We Shall Overcome' during a service at Morris Brown AME Church June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. US police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Congressman Jeff Denham (C), R-California, prays with Senator Chris Coons (6th L), D-Deleware, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (5th L), D-Texas, Senator Chuck Grassley (4th L), R-Iowa, and Congressman Joe Wilson (3rd L), R-South Carolina, in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015, during a moment of silence for the nine killed in a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks about the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, from the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman places flowers at a makeshift memorial near the Emanuel AME Church June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, after a mass shooting at the Church on the evening of June 17, 2015. US police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People visit a makeshift memorial near the Emanuel AME Church June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, after a mass shooting at the Church on the evening of June 17, 2015. US police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Congressman Jeff Denham (C), R-California, prays with Senator Chris Coons (2nd L), D-Deleware, and Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (L), D-Texas, in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015, during a moment of silence for the nine killed in a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
People visit a makeshift memorial near the Emanuel AME Church June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, after a mass shooting at the Church on the evening of June 17, 2015. US police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman prays at a makeshift memorial near the Emanuel AME Church June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, after a mass shooting at the Church on the evening of June 17, 2015. US police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Congressman Jeff Denham (R), R-California, holds hands with Senator Chris Coons (2nd R), D-Deleware, and Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (C), D-Texas, as they stand with Senator Chuck Grassley (2nd L), R-Iowa, and Congressman Joe Wilson (L), R-South Carolina, in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 18, 2015, during a moment of silence for the nine killed in a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Members of the US House ofÃRepresentatives and members of the US Senate and staff gather in a prayer circle in front of the US Capitol to honor those gunned down last night inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, June 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. Police have arrestedÃDylann Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina in the shooting that killed 9 people. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Several speakers said the flag's presence at the state's capitol sent an unappealing message about South Carolina to the rest of the world and that taking the flag down would be only a small first step toward smoothing relations in the state.

"Ridding the flag from the front of the State House is a start," said state Senator Marlon Kimpson, who is black. "But let me underscore this: It will not solve the racial divide in South Carolina."

Outside the church, visitors continued to stop to remember the slain, among them Melvin Wright, 42, who said he supported the call to remove the flag.

"It symbolizes hatred to me," said Wright, a Charleston native.

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish)

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