Following the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church, Haley says the flag "does not represent the future of our state"

By Tierney McAfee
Updated June 22, 2015 05:40 PM
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Grace Beahm/The Post And Courier/AP

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the state to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol grounds.

“The time has come,” she said on Monday, less than one week after a gunman killed nine worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a what authorities say was a racially-motivated attack.

“This has been a very difficult time for our state,” said Haley, who was joined by a group of bipartisan lawmakers from the state, including Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. “We have stared evil in the eye … Our state is grieving, but we are also coming together.”

Hours before Haley’s statement, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., went before news cameras to increase pressure on the governor.

“The Confederate battle flag years and years ago was appropriated as a symbol of hate,” Riley said, noting the flag was used by the Ku Klux Klan, among others, as a “symbol of defiance to civil rights and equal rights.”

Racially-charged photos of shooting suspect Dylann Roof, 21, surfaced on a website Saturday, along with a manifesto detailing the author’s hatred for African-Americans. One image shows Roof posing with a gun and the Confederate flag. (The website had no byline or author identified but was reportedly registered under the name Dylan Roof earlier this year.)

Haley said Roof had a “sick and twisted view” of the controversial symbol, which is viewed in Southern culture as both a symbol of racial oppression and of ancestral sacrifice.

“For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble, Haley said. “At the same time for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.”

“We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here but the statehouse is different The flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our state,” she added.

The move comes after Republican politicians including Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney publicly called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds, where it flew at full-mast following the killings, despite other flags in the state being lowered.

Romney said in a Tweet Saturday: “Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims.”