Confederate flag bill signing draws reaction statewide

Published: Jul. 9, 2015 at 11:35 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - Lawmakers and private citizens alike have been talking about Gov. Nikki Haley's historic signing Thursday afternoon of a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

Congressman and former governor Mark Sanford praised lawmakers for voting to remove the flag.

"The vote is a reminder to all of us on the ways in which faith can move mountains," Sanford said in a statement. "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."

Senior US Sen. Lindsey Graham also praised state lawmakers for voting to take down the flag. The presidential candidate says last month's mass shooting at Emanuel AME changed feelings about the flag.

"The day before the shooting, Republicans and Democrats were okay with a compromise," he said. "After the shooting, nobody was okay with a compromise.  And after the families embraced the shooter and demonstrated a kindness and love that I can't even imagine, representing my state better than I can ever hope to, the flag had to come down and thank God it has."

Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard said everybody knew it was time to come together and do the right thing.

"We not only proved to the state of South Carolina, but we proved to the world that we are united," Gilliard said.

A lot of people were gathered in the lobby of the State House, because it was so packed upstairs.

Once that bill was signed and before Haley returned to her office, she addressed the crowd downstairs who cheered.

"I want to thank all of you for taking the time to come out, because I will tell you it really is a great day in South Carolina," she said.

Outside the State House, shortly after Haley signed the bill, Sen. Marlon Kimpson called the day a culmination of hard work.

"It's a new day in South Carolina, but we must also be mindful of those nine families who set the tone for this to happen today," Kimpson said. "It's no doubt, as the governor mentioned, that this was accomplished because of the tone, the grace, the mercy, the message of unity that grew out of Charleston Strong, and I'm proud to be a part of that."

In downtown Charleston, as people visited the memorial outside the Mother Emanuel AME Church, they spoke of compassion and grace.

"I cant even begin to express how heartbroken we are and yet they have been so gracious in their lost and have certainly demonstrated an amazing example of human love and a willingness to rise above," Sharon Foxworthy said. "I feel like its the least we can do as a show of respect for the people who lost their lives."

Foxworthy worked across the street from Mother Emanuel for the last 15 years. She said she was nearly brought to tears today, but said this act is yet another example proving all lives were not lost in vain.

"I think it's more of a compassion for other people's feelings," Grant McClure said. "If something hurts other people's feelings, there's no reason to leave it up."

The Rev. Nelson Rivers III applauded State Rep. Jenny Horne's passionate plea to bring the flag down during Wednesday night's debate.

"I said we needed courage, and then she stepped up to the podium," he said.

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