South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) declared “it’s time” for the state to remove the Confederate flag from its capitol while asking that “the focus still remain on the nine victims of this horrible tragedy” in a statement on Monday.
Haley began by saying, “this has been a very difficult time for our state. We have stared evil in the eye, and watched good, prayerful people killed in one of the most sacred of places. We were hurt and broken, and we needed to heal. We were able to start that process not by issues — talking about issues that divide us, but by holding vigils, by hugging our neighbors, by honoring those we lost, and by falling to our knees in prayer. Our state is grieving, but we are also coming together.”
She added, that the state has a “tough history” on issues of race, and “In spite of last week’s tragedy, we have come a long way since those days and have much to be proud of. But there’s more we can do.”
Haley then pivoted to the flag, saying that “for many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble, traditions of history, of heritage ,and of an ancestry. 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. Those South Carolinians view the flag as the 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.”
She added, “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 viewpoints. We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here. We respect freedom of expression. And for those who wish to show their respect for the flag on their private property, no one will stand in your way. But the statehouse is different, and the events of this past week call upon us to look at this in a different way. 15 years ago, after much contentious debate, South Carolina came together in a bipartisan way to move the flag from atop the Capitol dome. 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 then stated, “150 years after the end of the civil war, the time has come. There will be some in our state who see this as a sad moment. I respect that. But know this, for good and for bad, whether it is on the statehouse grounds, or in a museum, the flag will always be a part of the soil of the South Carolina. But this is a moment in which we could say that that flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state. 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. My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we could move forward as a state in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in heaven.” And “The General Assembly wraps up their year this week. And as governor I have the authority to call them back into session under extraordinary circumstances. I have indicated to the House and the Senate, that if they do not take measures to ensure this debate takes place this summer, I will use that authority for the purpose of the legislature removing the flag from the statehouse grounds. That will take place in the coming weeks, after the regular session and the veto investigation have been completed. There will be a time for discussion and debate, but the time for action is coming soon.”
She added, “I want to make two things very clear. First, 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 something 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 debate will be respected. We have made incredible progress in South Carolina on racial issues, yes, but on so many others. The 21st century belongs to us, because we have chosen to seize what is in front of us, to do what is right, and do it together. I have every faith that this will be no different. It is what we do in South Carolina. It is who we are.
Haley concluded, “Second, I understand that what I have said here today will generate a lot of interest. What I ask is that the focus still remain on the nine victims of this horrible tragedy, their families, the Mother Emanuel family, the AME Church family, the South Carolina family, we all deserve time to grieve and to remember and to heal. We will take it, and I ask that you respect that. We know that bringing down the Confederate flag will not bring back the nine kind souls taken from, us nor rid us of the hate and bigotry that drove a monster through the doors of Mother Emanuel that night, some divisions are bigger than a flag. The evil we saw last Wednesday comes from a place much deeper, much darker. But we are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer. The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is something that we cannot stand. The fact that it causes pain to so many is enough to move it from the Capitol grounds. It is, after all, a capitol that belongs to all of us. July 4th is just around the corner. Soon, we will once again celebrate the birth of our nation, and of our freedoms, it will be fitting that our state Capitol will soon fly the flags of our country and of our state and no others.”
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