After calling the Confederate flag a “nonissue” back in 2014, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has now changed her tune. Flanked by Senator Tim Scott and Representative James Clyburn, Haley called for the removal of the flag from the capitol grounds.
“This has been a very difficult time for our state. We have stared evil in the eye,” she said, speaking of the massacre at Emanuel AME church. “True hate can never triumph over true love.”
During the press conference, the governor discussed the state’s troubled history on race and told the crowd South Carolinians don’t “need reminders” of the state’s horrific past.
Although she said “the flag will always be a part of the soil” of the state, Gov. Haley made it clear it “does not represent the future of the state of South Carolina.”
Gov. Haley’s about face came as a result of tremendous pressure from both inside and outside of South Carolina. Over the weekend the hashtags #TakeItDown and #TakeDowntheFlag garnered nearly 90,000 tweets with citizens from coast to coast calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina’s capitol grounds.
When asked what he thought about South Carolina continuing to fly the flag in the wake of the Charleston shootings, President Obama echoed his 2007 stance, saying it should be retired to a museum, not fly at the statehouse.
In her press conference, Gov. Haley urged South Carolina lawmakers to pass a bill to remove the flag from the capitol grounds, but indicated that if they don’t act before the end of the session, she’ll call a special session to ensure they do.
However, she may not have to go to such lengths. On Friday, South Carolina House of Representatives member Doug Brannon said he’ll introduce a bill to remove the flag from government property.
“I had a friend die for no reason at all except he was a Black man,” Rep. Brannon said. “Senator [Clementa Pinckney] was an incredible human being. I don’t want to talk politics, but I’m going to introduce the bill for that reason.”
Despite the governor’s new stance, support for the flag remains strong in South Carolina’s white population. A 2014 Winthrop University poll found 72percent of white and 27 of Black South Carolinians believe the flag should stay put.
If the previous fight to remove the flag is any indication of what’s to come, South Carolina’s lawmakers are in for a tough fight.