In a hastily announced press conference Monday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) called on her state to remove the Confederate flag that has long flown outside the capitol building on the statehouse grounds.
“Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state without ill will to say it’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds,” Haley said during the press conference, noting that while the act would not bring back those killed last week, it was necessary to prevent the symbol from causing further pain.
Gov. Haley added that she will use her power as governor to call an extraordinary special session of the state legislature if they refuse to act. “The time for action is coming soon,” she said. “This is South Carolina’s historic moment.”
Standing by her side at the announcement were South Carolina’s senators, Lindsey Graham (R) and Tim Scott (R). Graham’s support for Haley’s remarks marked a change of tone from how he approached the issue just three days ago. In an interview with CNN on Friday, he asserted that the Confederate flag is “part of who we are,” although he also said that revisiting that decision “would be fine with me.”
Graham issued a statement shortly after the press conference Monday, saying “I am urging that the Confederate Battle Flag be removed from statehouse grounds to an appropriate location.” Graham became the first Republican presidential candidate to call for the flag to be taken down, but minutes after the announcement, Ohio Governor and likely candidate John Kasich (R) sent out his own statement calling for the removal of the flag. The question has been asked of many of the contenders in recent days, with most asserting that the issue should be left up to the state.
The South Carolina politicians’ dramatic shift — after decades of fiercely defending the flag — came after revelations that it was an important symbol and inspiration for Dylann Roof, the 21 year old who murdered nine people in Charleston’s historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church last week.
Legislators are currently in a session to pass the state’s budget, and could take up and debate a bill about the flag. Contrary to reports that a two-thirds supermajority vote in the state legislature would be needed to remove the flag, it would only take a simple majority.