by Paul Bowers
Late last night, the S.C. House of Representatives gave its final approval to a bill that would remove the battle flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia. Gov. Nikki Haley, who has expressed support for taking the flag down since the June 17 mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, is expected to sign the bill into law today.
As local, state, and national leaders and politicians respond to the news, we'll post their responses on this page.
• S.C. Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison: "Our leaders in Columbia deserve a great deal of thanks for exercising courage to remove the confederate flag from the statehouse grounds. There are people on both sides of this issue who exhibited constraint and civility during these turbulent times. I know our friend Clementa Pinckney would be proud.
"Over the past few weeks South Carolina showed that we could stare down hatred and bigotry. We have been battered, bruised and heart broken, yet last night we were able to accomplish something that many believe to be impossible.
"Our unity has birthed renewed hope. A divisive symbol may be departing but the real work remains. We must continue to fight for access to health care through Medicaid expansion, equitable funding for education, economic development for rural communities, investment in our deteriorating infrastructure and racial healing.
"I hope we use this experience as an example of how we can move forward together."
• Congressman Mark Sanford: "This morning's vote by the South Carolina House, that followed a similar vote in the South Carolina Senate, is a reminder to all of us on the ways in which faith can move mountains. What would have been viewed as politically impossible just three weeks ago changed as a result of the faith, humility, and grace shown by the families of the nine victims at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. They didn't take the votes or make the speeches, but they caused both – and that strikes me as something for all of us to think on and be inspired by on this historic occasion."
• Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton: "Removing this symbol of our nation's racist past is an important step towards equality and civil rights in America. The flag may soon no longer fly at the State Capitol, but there is still unfinished business in confronting and acting on the inequalities that still exist in our country. We can't hide from the hard truths about race and justice. We must do everything in our power to have the courage to name them and change them."
• Jeff Ayers, Interim Executive Director of South Carolina Equality: “We are proud of and thankful for the hardworking senators, representatives, and the governor of our state who came together to advocate for a removal of a flag that has come to symbolize racism, hatred, and injustice. We are also grateful for the impassioned response of South Carolina’s citizens who have come together throughout the state to take a stand against racial injustice. We may have galvanized around taking down the flag, but we all know that there’s a long road ahead of us as we work to reach SC Equality’s vision of ‘a South Carolina where everyone is equal.’ But this tremendous occasion shows what kind of work can be done in our state when its residents get involved in the political process and legislators reach across the aisle to do what’s right. We hope that this momentum can continue as we continue to work toward equality and justice in our state.”
• Ethel D. Campbell, chair of the Dorchester County Democratic Party: “DCDP is proud of the state legislature for its decision to remove the Confederate flag from State House grounds.
“Sadly, it took the recent and tragic death of nine to finally recognize the inhumanity suffered by hundreds of thousands in our nation’s early history.”
• Kerri Forrest, president of YWCA Greater Charleston: "The YWCA of Greater Charleston thanks Governor Haley and the South Carolina General Assembly for taking swift action to remove the Confederate Flag from statehouse grounds. This action shows that our representatives understand now, through the expressions of our corporate, civic and clergy communities, that this is the New South, one of diversity and with the promise of opportunity, and that there is no place for symbols of division and hatred.
"Let us all understand that removing the Confederate Flag is just one more step in addressing the vestiges of centuries of racism in our nation. It opens the door for the real work to begin on a progressive agenda, such as: expanding voting rights and access to the polls, raising the minimum wage and eliminating wage and salary disparities based on gender, amending our state constitution to guarantee a high quality, versus a ‘minimally adequate’ education, enacting hate crimes legislation, becoming full partners with the federal government’s Affordable care Act of 2010, and improving our legal system to deliver justice equally without regard to race. The dialogue must continue, as the fight for social justice is more than a symbol.
"The YWCA of Greater Charleston continues to pray with our community at this difficult time."
• Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce: "Wednesday, July 8, 2015 will go down in history as a monumental day for the state of South Carolina. After many hours of debate, impassioned pleas and discussion which began on Monday of this week in the South Carolina Senate and finished early this morning in the South Carolina House, our legislators successfully voted to remove the Confederate Flag from our State House grounds. This is an important day that will result in many opportunities for our future.
"South Carolina is now, more than ever, a place where businesses will want to grow and where people will want visit. More importantly, it is a place where the people who reside here work through their differences to show respect and love through the most difficult of times.
"We are a place of significant history. And it is because of our history, that our future is brighter than ever.
"The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce wishes to thank our elected leaders for their courage to transform our state, moving through the darkest hours toward our future."
• Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.: "Today, in South Carolina, division has been replaced with unity. Our state capitol building — a building that belongs to all South Carolinians — will not house flags that do not belong to all South Carolinians as does the flag of our state and the flag of our country.
"For more than half a century, the Confederate battle flag has been atop our state capitol or in front. This reasonably insulted many of our citizens and kept alive wounds of prejudice and hate. For many years, efforts have been made to have this flag retired to a museum.
"Today, at long last, this has been done. Our state’s response to a horrific act of racial hatred has been a clear and decisive act of graceful unity, respect, and healing for all of our citizens.
"Gov. Haley and members of our General Assembly deserve the highest praise from our citizens. They will be able to carry with them for the rest of their lives deserved pride for this historic and healing action.
"We have an opportunity to work together and build new bonds of acceptance, tolerance, and inclusiveness for our children and grandchildren.”