COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Gov. Nikki Haley is throwing her support behind removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds following a racially charged shooting in Charleston that killed nine African-Americans during a Bible study last week.
"It's time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds," Haley said Monday afternoon in front of a room full of state leaders who applauded her when she made the announcement.
The governor said she would use her authority to call lawmakers back to Columbia if they do not take up debate during this session.
Haley becomes the highest-profile state leader to call for the flag's removal after the shooting.
The governor made the announcement during a 4 p.m. news conference after sources indicated she was working with state leaders to formulate a plan to remove the flag.
Although Haley's call to remove the flag comes as a strong call to action, the flag cannot be removed just yet. According to the South Carolina Heritage Act, the flag may not be removed from the capitol grounds without a two-thirds vote from each chamber of the State House.
"There will be some in our state who see this as a sad moment," Haley said. "I respect that, but know this. For good and for bad whether it is on the State House grounds or in a museum, the flag will always be a part of the soil of South Carolina. But this is a moment that we can say that that flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state."
The flag's current spot on the State House grounds came in 2000 following a legislative compromise that removed the flag from the State House dome to the Confederate Memorial in front of Gervais Street.
Calls for the flag's outright removal have been around in the 15 years following the compromise. But those calls have turned into a deafening buzz in the days following the shooting at Charleston Emanuel AME Church.
Investigators say Dylann Roof, 21, walked into the church on Wednesday night and sat down for Bible study with the nine victims before opening fire. Roof fled the scene, investigators said, and was eventually captured in Shelby, NC.
Roof faces nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime in connection with the case. He remains at the Charleston County Detention Center on a $1 million bond.