SC governor calls for Confederate flag to come down

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South Carolina Gov. Calls for Removal of Confederate Flag from Statehouse

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina's governor declared Monday that the Confederate flag should be removed from the grounds of the Statehouse, reflecting what she described as a new consensus that the slayings of nine black churchgoers has changed what the banner stands for.

Gov. Nikki Haley's about-face comes just days after authorities charged Dylann Storm Roof, 21, with murder. The young white man appeared in photos waving holding Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags, and purportedly wrote of fomenting racial violence. Survivors told police he hurled racial insults during the attack.

"The murderer now locked up in Charleston said he hoped his actions would start a race war. We have an opportunity to show that not only was he wrong, but that just the opposite is happening," she said, flanked by Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites who joined her call.

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SC governor calls for Confederate flag to come down

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, nominee to be the US ambassador to the United Nations, walks through the Capitol to the Senate subway on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on her nomination to be to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Delegates pose for pictures with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) on the floor during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 20, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S.Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at the Federalist Society, 2016 National Lawyers Convention at the Mayflower Hotel, on November 18, 2016 in Washington, DC.

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Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley delivers remarks at the Federalist Society 2016 National Lawyers Convention in Washington, U.S., November 18, 2016.

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (L) and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio react on stage during a campaign event in Chapin, South Carolina February 17, 2016. Haley announced her endorsement of Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination.

(REUTERS/Chris Keane)

Escorted by staff and security, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) moves from one television interview to another across from the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. 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)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, right, greets U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, 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.

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South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley speaks to press outside the Emanuel AME Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.US police arrested a white high school dropout Thursday suspected of carrying out a gun massacre at one of America's oldest black churches, the latest deadly assault to fuel simmering racial tensions. Authorities 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 a Bible study class on Wednesday evening.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Escorted by staff and security, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (C) moves from one television interview to another across from the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. 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)

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley holds a news conference with fellow members of the Republican Governors Association at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce February 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. Republican and Democratic governors met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday during the last day of the National Governors Association winter meeting.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley waves on stage during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

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Former Florida Governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush walks with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley during a visit to Sistercare, a non-profit that aids domestic violence victims and their children on March 17, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Bush announced in December that he 'actively explore' a presidential run in 2016. He is currently on a two day tour through South Carolina and will attend several fundraising events.

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Nikki Haley applauds the Claflin College Choir after their performance during her inauguration as governor of South Carolina, Wednesday, January 12, 2011, in Columbia, South Carolina.

(Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images)

US Republican Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013.

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Republican candidate for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) smiles along with her husband Michael Haley (L) and daughter Rena (C) as they watch the runoff election results at the Columbia Sheraton on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks to the media prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 12, 2012 in Darlington, South Carolina.

(Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives a birthday cake to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley during a campaign rally at Charleston Area Convention Center on January 20, 2012 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Romney continues to campaign for votes in South Carolina ahead of their primary on January 21.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Nikki Haley speaks to supporters as she comes onto stage during an election party for Republican South Carolina Governor candidate Nikki Haley at the State Museum on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

(Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

Republican candidate for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) smiles along with her husband Michael Haley (L) and daughter Rena (C) as they watch the runoff election results at the Columbia Sheraton on June 22, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley defeated Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff election.

(Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

South Carolina State Rep. Nikki Haley from Lexington, pictured on May 14, 2009, is launching a bid to become South Carolina's first female governor.

(Photo by Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - JUNE 22: Nikki Haley

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"My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move our state forward in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in Heaven," Haley said.

Only days after the massacre inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, what was long thought politically impossible in South Carolina became the go-to position for the state's politicians. Moments after her announcement, fellow Republicans echoed her call, from the Republican Party chairman to the top GOP lawmaker, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Haley urged the state's GOP-led House and Senate to debate the issue no later than this summer. If not, she said she will call a special session and force them to resolve it. "I will use that authority for the purpose of the legislature removing the flag from the statehouse grounds," she said.

Lawmakers said they would propose moving the flag to the state-run Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

Making any changes to the banner requires a two-thirds supermajority in both houses under the terms of a 15-year-old deal that moved it from atop the Statehouse to a position next to a monument to Confederate soldiers out front.

Efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag have proven to be career suicide for other South Carolina politicians. The Sons of Confederate Veterans have already warned that they will fight to keep it where it is.

Haley acknowledged that there are very different views about what it symbolizes.

"For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble," she said. "The hate-filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect, and in many ways, revere it."

For many others, "the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past," she said.

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Confederate flag protests in SC
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SC governor calls for Confederate flag to come down
Hundreds of people gather for a protest rally against the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina on June 20, 2015. The racially divisive Confederate battle flag flew at full-mast despite others flying at half-staff in South Carolina after the killing of nine black people in an historic African-American church in Charleston on June 17. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white male suspected of carrying out the Emanuel African Episcopal Methodist Church bloodbath, was one of many southern Americans who identified with the 13-star saltire in red, white and blue. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 23: Ernest Branch (L) hugs a man carrying a Confederate flag (who didn't want to provide his name) saying, that he respects the fact the guy likes the flag but that he is against the flag flying on the Capitol grounds on June 23, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. The South Carolina governor Nikki Haley asked that the flag be removed afer debate over the flag flying on the capitol grounds was kicked off after nine people were shot and killed during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley hugs U.S. Congressman James Clyburn after she called for legislators to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State House during a press conference on Monday, June 22, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (Tim Dominick/The State/TNS via Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 23: Asha Jones attends a protest in support of a Confederate flags removal from the South Carolina capitol grounds on June 23, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. The South Carolina governor Nikki Haley asked that the flag be removed after debate over the flag flying on the capitol grounds was kicked off after nine people were shot and killed during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 23: Sonya Anderson asks for the removal of the confederate flag as she attends a protest in support of a confederate flags removal from the South Carolina capitol grounds on June 23, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. The South Carolina governor Nikki Haley asked that the flag be removed after debate over the flag flying on the capitol grounds was kicked off after nine people were shot and killed during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 20: Anti-Confederate flag protesters demonstrate outside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church where nine people were shot to death earlier this week June 20, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Suspect Dylann Roof, 21, was arrested and charged in the killing of nine people during a prayer meeting in the church, one of the nation's oldest black churches in the South. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A man wears a t-shirt representing the Confederate flag as hundreds of people gather for a protest rally against the Confederate flag in Columbia, South Carolina on June 20, 2015. The racially divisive Confederate battle flag flew at full-mast despite others flying at half-staff in South Carolina after the killing of nine black people in an historic African-American church in Charleston on June 17. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white male suspected of carrying out the Emanuel African Episcopal Methodist Church bloodbath, was one of many southern Americans who identified with the 13-star saltire in red, white and blue. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 22: The Confederate flag flies on the Capitol grounds after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced that she will call for the Confederate flag to be removed on June 22, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate over the flag flying at the Capitol was again ignited off after nine people were shot and killed during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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South Carolina can survive and thrive "while still being home to both of those viewpoints. We do not need to declare a winner and a loser," she said. "This is a moment in which we can say that the flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state."

Only a few months have passed since Haley, an Indian-American, described an opponent's rally to bring down the flag as a campaign stunt. She claimed last year that businesses weren't bothered despite continuing boycott demands by black groups. "We really fixed all that," she said, with her election as the state's first female and first minority governor, and the election of Republican Tim Scott as the South's first black U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

The day after the shooting, Haley's posture had changed.

"We woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken," she said.

The Confederate battle flag was placed atop the Statehouse dome in the 1960s as an official protest of the civil rights movement. After mass protests, it was moved to the grounds in 2000, as part of a compromise between a group of black lawmakers and the Republicans who have controlled South Carolina for a quarter-century.

That deal kept it flying high since the shooting, even as state and U.S. flags were lowered to honor the victims. It also means that when thousands of mourners honor the Emanuel's slain senior pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, they will likely see the Confederate flag before or after filing past his coffin in the Statehouse.

Haley was flanked by Scott and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, now running for president, as well as South Carolina's only other black congressman, Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn.

"Last week's terrorizing act of violence shook the very core of every South Carolinian," State House Speaker Jay Lucas said earlier Monday. "Moving South Carolina forward from this terrible tragedy requires a swift resolution of this issue."

The White House said President Barack Obama respects the state of South Carolina's authority to decide the issue, but believes the flag belongs in a museum. Obama new Pinckney personally, and plans to deliver his eulogy in Charleston on Friday.

"The flag got appropriated by hate groups. We can't put it in a public place where it can give any oxygen to hate-filled people," said Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., a Democrat.

The last governor who called for the flag's removal, Republican David Beasley, was hounded out of office in 1998 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group's influence also doomed his front-running Senate campaign for the seat won by Republican Jim DeMint.

"Do not associate the cowardly actions of a racist to our Confederate Banner," the group's South Carolina commander, Leland Summers, said in a statement. "There is absolutely no link between The Charleston Massacre and The Confederate Memorial Banner. Don't try to create one."

It remains to be seen whether two-thirds of both houses will vote against such sentiments.

Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, helped broker the compromise in 2000.

"It is my opinion - as someone who's fallen on that sword before and shed blood and had the scars to prove it and the threats to prove it - I think the House should do it first. That's the largest body. If the House is serious, send us a two-thirds `sine die' amendment, and I think the Senate will do the right thing," Jackson said.

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Adcox reported from Columbia; Steve Peoples contributed from Washington, D.C.

S.C. Leaders Call for Removal of Confederate Flag

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