South Carolina to remove Confederate battle flag
The South Carolina legislature passed a bill early yesterday to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds after an emotional 13-hour debate over the controversial banner.
The flag, which dates back to the 1861-65 American Civil War, is a symbol of slavery and racism for many and southern heritage for others. The bill, already approved by the Senate, passed a third and final vote in the House of Representatives in Columbia in the early hours of the morning by a margin of 94-20, and now goes to Governor Nikki Haley to be signed into law. Ms Haley has said she will sign it.
The bill was passed after three days of intense debate in both chambers with tempers fraying in the House late into the night.
The final vote was secured almost exactly three weeks after nine black worshippers were gunned down on June 17 during Bible study at a church with an historically black congregation in Charleston.
The battle over the banner was stoked by photos of the accused Dylann Roof posing with a Confederate flag on a website bearing a racist manifesto.
The murders sparked a bipartisan wave of repudiation across the South, from politicians to businesses, led by Haley.
The bill appeared to be in trouble as the debate ran late into the night on Wednesday as Republicans launched dozens of amendments seeking to soften the impact of taking down the flag and move it to a museum.
"If you cannot be moved by the suffering of the people of Charleston you don't have a heart," said Republican Representative Jenny Anderson Horne, turning her frustration on her own party members.
As the House debate began, the South Carolina law enforcement division said it was investigating threats sent to legislators on both sides of the issue.