One hundred and fifty years after the end of the American Civil War, South Carolina, the first state to secede from the union, on Friday lowered the slavery era Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the State House….reports Arun Kumar from Washington
One hundred and fifty years after the end of the American Civil War, South Carolina, the first state to secede from the union, on Friday lowered the slavery era Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the State House.
Watching the historic step closing a chapter on a painful era of racial hatred in the Deep South was the State’s Indian-American governor Nikki Haley, who Thursday signed a law to remove the flag, which had fluttered in front of the 19th-century capitol building for 54 years.
As pledged by Haley the flag came down “with dignity” at a morning ceremony in the state capital of Columbia amid heavy security — 23 days after a white man gunned down nine black churchgoers at a historic black church in Charleston.
“South Carolina taking down the confederate flag – a signal of goodwill and healing, and a meaningful step towards a better future,” tweeted President Barack Obama.
There were no remarks as seven soldiers, two of them black, dressed in grey uniforms slow marched to the memorial, lowered the flag for the last time, furled and sent it to the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum where it will be housed.
There were loud cheers and even chants of “USA” and “Nah, nah, nah, hey, hey goodbye!”
Haley, a Republican, used nine pens to sign the bill on Thursday hours after the State House of Representatives voted 94 to 20 to bring down the flag after a 13-hour at times heated debate, with some lawmakers wanting to protect the heritage of Confederate ancestors.
Each pen, said the daughter of immigrant Sikh parents from India, will go to the families of the nine victims of the massacre at the Charleston church.
By showing forgiveness after the shooting, she said, they caused the change of heart that led to passage of the history-making bill.
“This is a story about the history of South Carolina and how the action of nine individuals laid out this long chain of events that forever showed the state of South Carolina what love and forgiveness looks like,” said Haley.
“When the emotions start to fade, the history of actions that took place by everyone in South Carolina is one we can all be proud of,” she said.
Crowds wanting to be part of the event gathered around the red battle flag with a blue cross (X) with 13 white stars representing each of the breakaway states on the State House grounds and jammed the lobby to witness the signing.
The Civil War (1860-65) icon used by Confederate general Robert E. Lee had flown at the State House for more than five decades, first on the Capitol dome and inside House and Senate chambers and then next to the Confederate Solider Monument.
Haley gave the call for the flag to come down 23 days ago after photographs of the alleged killer Dylann Roof waving the Confederate flag in one hand and holding a gun in the other ignited a nationwide debate on the issue.
Businesses, including retailers Walmart and Amazon, and other state leaders in Alabama and North Carolina have followed with bans on Confederate battle flags.