South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, standing beside Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC) and a slew of lawmakers, called for the state legislature to remove the Confederate flag from the states capitol’s grounds.
“Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds,” Haley said at a Monday press conference to cheers.
The call to remove the Confederate flag comes following days of debate over the state flying the flag in the wake of a racially motivated attack on a historically black church in Charleston. The church shooting claimed the lives of nine members.
Speaking on Monday about the decision to call for the flag’s removal, Haley spoke to both sides of the debate.
“For many people in our state the flag stands for traditions that are noble. Traditions of history, heritage and of ancestry,” 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,” she continued. “Those South Carolinians view the flag as a symbol of respect, integrity, and duty. They also see it as a memorial, a way to honor ancestors who came to the service of their state during time of conflict. That is not hate nor is it racism.”
Haley argued that the call to remove the flag does not mean that one side has won over the other.
“At the same time, for many others in South Carolina the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past. As a state we can survive and indeed we can thrive as we have done, while still being home to both of those view points. We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here,” the South Carolina governor said.
She noted that people may still fly the Confederate flag on their own private property but that “the statehouse is different.”
“The murderer now locked up in Charleston said he hoped his actions would to start a race war. We have an opportunity to show not only was he wrong, but that just the opposite is happening. My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us we can move forward as a state in harmony and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven,” she said.
Haley went on to stress that the decision to remove the flag from the capitol grounds will be one made by South Carolinians, not outsiders.
“This is South Carolina’s statehouse. It is South Carolina’s historic moment and this will be South Carolina’s decision. To those outside of our state, the flag may be nothing more than a symbol of the worst of America’s past. That is not what it is to many South Carolinians. The statehouse belongs to all of us. Their voices will be heard and their role in this will be respected,” she said.