Weeks after the Confederate flag became a renewed cultural lightning rod following the shooting of nine people by a racist gunman who found motivation in what it represented, the South Carolina legistlature has voted to remove it from the capital grounds in Columbia, where it had flown for some fifty years.
The flag will be removed on Friday, after governor Nikki Haley signed a bill, approved by the legislature, to take it down, an act that was until today prohibited by state law.
Per the Associated Press:
Haley will sign the bill — which passed the state House early Thursday after 13 hours of debate — at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Statehouse lobby. The measure requires that the flag come down within 24 hours of her signature.
After the House’s 93-27 vote, there were hugs, tears and high fives in the chamber. Members snapped selfies and pumped their fists. But even among the celebrations, there was sadness.
After the Civil War, the flag was first flown over the dome of South Carolina’s Capitol in 1961 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the war. It stayed as a protest to the Civil Rights movement, only moving in 2000 from the dome to its current location.
“I am 44 years old. I never thought I’d see this moment. I stand with people who never thought they would see this as well,” House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said. “It’s emotional for us not just because it came down, but why it came down.”
It’s a good first step, but the contentious debate over whether or not it should remain, not to mention the type of hateful act that inspired the conversation is a reminder that there’s still a long way to go.
Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.