South Carolina lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to consider removing the Confederate flag from their Statehouse grounds, a week after the massacre of nine black church members inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church.
The initiative suggested by Governor Nikki Haley to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds in Columbia was by a vote of 103-10 in the House and a voice vote in the Senate.
Calls for the removal of the flag intensified after photos were posted online of the alleged church killer, Dylann Roof, posing next to a Confederate flag.
“For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble,” Haley said Monday in a news conference at the state capitol.
“For many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol,” he added.
Multiple states moved quickly to remove the flag from official use, while some of the nation’s largest retailers announced that they will stop selling merchandise displaying the flag.
Industry leaders Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pulled images of the flag from their stores and websites. Google Inc., Sears Holding Corp. and eBay Inc. quickly followed suit.
The Valley Forge Flag company, which has sent flags into battle and to the moon, said they would stop manufacturing and selling Confederate flags.
"We hope that this decision will show our support for those affected by the recent events in Charleston and, in some small way, help to foster racial unity and tolerance in our country," the company said in a statement.
Governor Haley’s call to remove the flag was supported by Republicans including US Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
She called on lawmakers to take action on the issue before the legislative year ends, adding that she would order a special session if they do not.
The Confederate flag controversy is the latest flashpoint in string of events that have sparked a debate over US race relations.
Last year saw the deaths of unarmed black men during confrontations with police in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, Baltimore and elsewhere, which spawned protests and occasional violent outbursts across the United States.