South Carolina House approves bill removing Confederate flag

Associated Press: BY JEFFREY COLLINS, July 8, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina House approved a bill removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, a stunning reversal in a state that was the first to leave the Union in 1860 and raised the flag again at its Statehouse more than 50 years ago to protest the civil rights movement.

The move early Thursday came after more than 13 hours of passionate and contentious debate, and just weeks after the fatal shootings of nine black church members, including a state senator, at a Bible study in Charleston.

“South Carolina can remove the stain from our lives,” said 64-year-old Rep. Joe Neal, a black Democrat first elected in 1992. “I never thought in my lifetime I would see this.”

The House easily approved the Senate bill by a two-thirds margin (94-20), and the bill now goes to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk. She supports the measure, which calls for the banner to come down within 24 hours of her signature.

“It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state,” Haley said in a statement.
Her office said she will sign the bill quickly, but didn’t give a specific timeframe.

Haley herself reversed her position on the flag, saying the pain, grief and grace of the families of the victims in the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church caused her to realize that while some conservative whites saw the Confederate flag as a symbol of pride in their Southern ancestors, most of the blacks who make up a third of the state’s population see it as a dark reminder of a racist past.

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