South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is poised to sign a measure to remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds after a bill passed with strong majorities in both the House and Senate. A ceremony to take the flag down has been scheduled for Friday morning, according to a spokesperson for Haley’s office.
The House voted on the measure early Thursday, with the final vote coming out to 94 to 20; the Senate, which voted on Monday, settled the matter with a vote of 37 to 3. The bill—introduced in the wake of the murder of nine black churchgoers at Charleston's Emanuel AME by white gunman Dylann Roof—was the subject of heated debate, and brought together by an unlikely coalition of lawmakers to remove the symbol of the Confederacy and white supremacy from state grounds.
"We now have the opportunity, the obligation, to put the exclamation point on an extraordinary narrative of good and evil, of love and mercy that will take its place in the history books," said Republican state Sen. Tom Davis.
Many lawmakers said that the terrorist attack on Emanuel AME changed their minds about the flag. “There is a huge difference between a [Confederate] monument and a flag fluttering in the wind on state grounds,” Republican state Sen. Larry Martin told the Washington Post. “Until [the Charleston shootings] that so devastated our state and the country, I don't think I'd ever really appreciated that."
But while majorities backed the measure to remove the flag, there were lawmakers committed to keeping it raised, claiming that it was a symbol of "heritage," not hate. Here are six of them explaining their votes in their own words:
State Rep. Brian White (R):
It’s not about hate. And I understand that our heritage with this flag that’s out there has been hijacked.
State Rep. Christopher Corley (R):
This is a non-issue that’s being made an issue by certain groups trying to take advantage of a terrible situation.
State Rep. Jonathan Hill (R):
The reason I have that position is because I think that it is extremely important that we remember this very dark time in our history, the mistakes that were made in our past. If we begin to systematically… removing all the monuments, all the flags and so forth we’re going to put ourselves in a position where we’re going to forget our past history. It’s not a history that any of us should be proud of… certainly all lives matter, including the lives of those who fought and died for their homes and families in the Confederacy.
State Rep. Eric Beddingfield (R):
[My 'no' vote was] in no way reflective on whether or not I think the flag should be removed. I simply wanted to take this up in regular order, vet different proposals, hear from differing perspectives and attempt to craft a solution that best fits the people we represent.
State Sen. Harvey Peeler (R):
We will not change history by moving the flag.
State Sen. Lee Bright (R):
I also want to know, is it about that flag? Is it about that one lunatic who waved that flag who also had a Budweiser behind him in most of his pictures as well and was usually wearing a Gold’s Gym T-shirt? But since it’s gonna be supposedly about that flag, Budweiser is safe and Gold’s Gym is safe.
He also said:
I’m more against taking it down in this environment than any other time just because I believe we’re placing the blame of what one deranged lunatic did on the people that hold their Southern heritage high.
The flag will be moved to the "relic room" of a military museum in Columbia, a process a spokesperson for Haley said will be "as low key as the national media will let us."