Washington: South Carolina`s Indian American Governor Nikki Haley hailed the state Senate`s vote to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds three weeks after a white man shot dead nine African-Americans in a historic black church.
Haley, a Republican, who took the lead in calling for the secessionist flag to be taken down after pictures emerged of the alleged shooter Dylan Roof holding a gun in one hand and waving the flag in the other, asked the House of Representatives Monday to act swiftly and follow the Senate`s lead.
The bill to remove the slavery era flag which has fluttered on the statehouse grounds for more than 50 years received 37-3 votes in the Republican majority Senate. After another Senate reading Tuesday, the Bill goes to the House for a vote.
"The South Carolina Senate today rose to this historic occasion, with a large majority of members from both parties coming together in the spirit of unity and healing that is binding our state back together and moving us forward in the right direction," said Haley.
As the debate in the Senate got underway on Monday, about a dozen protesters gathered outside to voice their support or opposition to taking down the flag, with verbal confrontations between the two sides at times heating up, CNN reported.
Faith leaders also gathered in the rotunda of the State House, singing "Amazing Grace" and encouraging individuals to find unity through faith.
The State newspaper in Columbia reported that pro-Confederate flag robocalls urged voters last week to call their representatives and to tell them to "not stand with leftist fanatics who want to destroy the South we love."
"What`s next? This attack on our values is sick and un-American and it has to stop right here and right now in South Carolina," the call said.
According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 57 percent of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism, about the same as in 2000 when 59 percent said they viewed it as a symbol of pride.
South Carolina lawmakers raised the Confederate emblem over the State House in 1961.
For nearly 40 years, it flew under the US flag and the state`s flag atop the Capitol dome until a compromise moved it to a flagpole next to a soldiers` monument.
The flag`s opponents maintain that its display on the grounds amounts to tacit state endorsement of white supremacy.
The church massacre reignited debate over the flag`s meaning and spurred politicians around the South to re-examine the placement of Confederate flags on everything from government property to state-issued license plates.
"The flag is the beginning; it can`t be the end," Haley told NBC over the weekend.
"The Civil War Is Winding Down" said the New York Times in an editorial. "South Carolina Senate`s vote to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol`s grounds was overdue. Now the State House must finish the job," it said.