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South Carolina House approves removal of Confederate flag


Confederate flagLawmakers in South Carolina’s House of Representatives voted early Thursday to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state legislature following last month’s shooting massacre at a black church.

The bill — which passed earlier in the week in the state Senate — now goes to the desk of South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley, who had urged lawmakers to pass the measure following the June 17 massacre of nine African Americans at an evening church service.

Haley, in a posting on her Facebook page, praised lawmakers for voting to remove the flag from the grounds of the state capital building — a move which just a few short weeks ago would have been unthinkable.

“Today, as the Senate did before them, the House of Representatives has served the State of South Carolina and her people with great dignity,” Haley wrote.

“I’m grateful for their service and their compassion. 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.”

Thursday’s vote came after a full day of heated debate Wednesday in the South Carolina House, as lawmakers opposed to removing the flag introduced a raft of amendments to slow down passage of the measure.

It passed by a vote of 94-20, more than the two-thirds vote needed for approval.

“It’s been a long time coming but I always felt this day would come,” tweeted James Clyburn, a longtime member of the US House from South Carolina, who is African American.

“I look forward to Gov Haley expeditiously signing this bill and finally removing the Confederate Battle Flag from the Statehouse grounds.”

Officials said once removed, the flag will be taken to a museum where it will be displayed as an artifact of Southern history.

– Symbol of heritage or hate? –

For 15 years, the flag has flown alongside a Confederate memorial on the manicured lawn of the Republican-dominated legislature in the southern state where the Civil War erupted in 1861.

But many see the Civil War banner — which has been adopted by extremist groups — as a symbol of hate and racism.

Supporters insist it is simply a symbol of Southern pride and heritage, and strongly oppose its removal.

The confederate flag already has come down outside the Alabama state legislature and several major retailers across the United States have said they will no longer sell it.

There have been calls years urging the removal of the banner, but they were rekindled after the June 17 mass murder of nine blacks at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston.

Dylann Roof, 21, a suspected white supremacist charged with the killings, has been seen in online photographs flaunting the Confederate flag.

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