Gov. Nikki Haley signs bill to remove Confederate flag

Published: Dec. 31, 2015 at 5:25 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The last days of the Confederate flag on the State House grounds are here.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill Thursday to permanently remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds and place it in the Confederate Relic Room.

Surrounded by national political figures, Democrats, Republicans, and former governors, Haley signed the bill, sealing an end of the 50-year history of the flag at the State House.

"So 22 days ago, I didn't know if I would ever be able to say this again, but today I am very proud to say that it is a great day in South Carolina," Haley said.

On Friday, officials will remove the flag at 10 a.m.

"We are a state that believes in tradition. We are a state that believes in history. We are a state that believes in respect. So we will bring it down with dignity, and we will make sure that it is put in its rightful place," Haley said.

Haley signed the bill with several different pens. Nine of them went to the families of the nine victims of the racially-charged shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston -- the shooting that set the legislature on the road to removing the flag for good.

Debate on the flag ended with a final, early Thursday morning vote to approve the bill in the House of Representatives. Representatives wrapped up their third reading at about 1:30 a.m., passing with more than a two-thirds majority and a final vote of 94-20.

But in the moments leading up to that vote, it looked like a clean bill, which Democrats and some Republicans said was the goal, was uncertain.

Multiple amendments were on the board to the very end, including one by Laurens Rep. Mike Pitts, who submitted over 50 amendments on the bill. His final proposal to put a state flag on the pole behind the Confederate memorial looked like it was going to pass, which would delay the entire bill from passing.

Pitts said his amendments weren't to stop the flag from coming down, but to try and keep Confederate history from being erased. He said he plans to introduce some of these measures when the legislature returns in January.

"In January there will be a bill, that's why I'm here today, I'm working on a bill to do exactly what I was trying to do," Pitts said. "What I was trying to accomplish with the amendment process. That compromise, I will file a bill in January to continue that process. I think the other side would be much more amenable to that in January because that will be past the emotion -- you won't ever get past what happened in Charleston -- but time and distance will make it less emotional to deal with."

Still, Pitts defended his efforts to introduce more amendments to the bill.

"After lunch you saw me seldom at the podium. You saw many of them pulled down, you saw me table many of my own amendments. My goal was misunderstood and misrepresented by the national press. Not the local press, you guys did a good job. But the national press represented some of that and they did that deliberately," Pitts said. "My goal was to show that there were many things on the State House grounds that can come under attack because of the diversity of what we have here."

However, Pitts said in the days before the bill reached the House that his goal was to slow the debate to a "grinding halt."

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