The Confederate flag will no longer fly above the State House in Charleston, South Carolina. The South Carolina Senate voted overwhelmingly on Monday to remove the battle flag from the grounds of the State House, favoring the motion 37-to-3.
For more than five decades, the flag has flown as a symbol of the segregated South, white supremacy and racist oppression. Last month, 21-year-old Dylann Roof used the flag to justify his brutal murder of 9 Black men and women at the Emanuel AME church. In the weeks since, protests have grown increasingly loud calling for the state to remove the flag, which poured salt on the community's already deep wounds.
The measure, sought by the state’s Republican governor, Nikki R. Haley, was voted upon during a dramatic roll call about 4 p.m. Monday, and will hopefully signal a shift in the state's race politics.
“We all have somewhere between slightly different and very different perspectives on the Confederate flag,” Senator Joel Lourie, a Democrat from Columbia, said during the debate. “This fact is undeniable: The alleged killer of the Charleston nine used that flag as a symbol of hatred and racism and bigotry. He was not the first; he will not be the last. I am very respectful to those who would argue that this flag is part of our state’s history, and that, too, is undeniable. But it’s also a flag that brings back horrible memories of slavery.”
Argued Lee Bright, who fought to keep the flag in place, “Removing this flag from out front is not going to do anything to change this nation. All we’re going to do is disrespect these 20,000-plus men, black and white, who fought to defend your state.”
After hours of intense debate, it was voted that the flag will come down. But there are still several steps needed before someone can pull a Bree Newsome and physically remove the flag: the measure has to survive a vote in the House of Representatives and the resulting law must be signed by Governor Haley. Then, within 24 hours of the signature, the state can begin to heal.