After flying it for more than 50 years, South Carolina officially removed the Confederate flag from the front of government grounds on Friday morning, three weeks after a racially charged shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston shocked the nation.
Loud cheers could be heard from the crowd of thousands as an honor guard removed the flag during a ceremony. Some in attendance were carrying confederate flags, though signs calling for the flag's removal outnumbered them.
The people of South Carolina have Spoken and their unified voice was heard across the world this morning just a few minutes past 10:00 AM. The Confederate Flag, a symbol that has divided the people of South Carolina for decades was removed from the Statehouse grounds for good.
The calls for the removal of the flag, traditionally a symbol of the Civil War South and later used by white supremacists, gained traction and ignited debate nationwide after the June 17 shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Many politicians reversed their stances on the issue in the wake of the massacre, and Governor Nikki Haley called for the flag's removal four days after the shooting. Haley signed a bill for its removal on Thursday, hours after it was approved by the state House. Before signing the bill, Haley saluted family members of the victims.
"May we never forget the actions that those people took to get us to this point today," she said.
The flag was originally raised on top of the state's capitol building in 1962, in what some feel was in direct opposition to the African-American civil rights movement spreading across the US. It flew there for nearly 40 years before it was moved to the State House. Previous attempts to remove the flag, which is protected under the South Carolina Heritage Act, had faced considerable obstacles. On NBC Today Friday morning, Haley said the flag should be in a museum "where people can honor it appropriately." It will now be housed at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.
"No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel pain," Haley said. "No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel like they don't belong."