South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said her sense of urgency about calling for a removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol was propelled by families of the nine victims in last week’s murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, who expressed love and forgiveness to the accused shooter, reports The State in Columbia, S.C. The removal of the flag would end a long, bitterly fought battle over whether the divisive symbol should continue to fly on state property.
After 15 years of sometimes-uneasy dormancy, the issue flared into a national debate when a gunman joined a Bible study at the historic church and after sitting with the group for about an hour, opened fire, killing nine. Dylann Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday. Law enforcement officials said he confessed to the slayings, which authorities called a hate crime. Subsequently, racist rants, allegedly written by the suspect, were found online with pictures of Roof, a Confederate flag and a handgun. “The murderer, now locked up in Charleston, said he hoped his actions would start a race war,” Haley told a packed State House lobby yesterday. She said the response of South Carolinians was the opposite — an “outpouring of love and support.”