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In solemn tribute to the nine people gunned down at a Charleston church, two flags atop the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, were lowered to half-staff on Thursday. They will stay there for nine days in honor of each victim.
But in a bewildering display, a Confederate flag on statehouse grounds is still flying high. It wasn't an oversight. It's because of state law.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has jurisdiction over how and when state flags fly — but the Confederate flag is under the authority of the state's General Assembly, lawmakers told NBC News. It can't be changed in any way without a sign-off from the General Assembly.
The flag — as well as other historically named icons and places — is legally protected under the 2000 South Carolina Heritage Act. The rebel banner continues to draw criticism from South Carolinians who say it keeps the symbol of slavery and the Civil War alive.
Haley while she was campaigning for governor last year said she there was no need to take down the Confederate flag. She addressed the controversy Friday on CBS This Morning, saying that she hopes a conversation can be started again with "thoughtful words to be exchanged."
"I think the state will start talking about that again, and we'll see where it goes," Haley said.
Her office didn't immediately respond to NBC News for further comment.
A recent NBC News online survey conducted by SurveyMonkey found that Americans are divided over what the Confederate flag represents. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed see the stars and banners as a symbol of racism, while an equal number agreed that it is a symbol of Southern pride. The remaining 2 percent did not have a response.
The differences are more glaring across racial and political lines. Eighty-one percent of blacks Americans surveyed see the flag as a symbol of racism, compared to 41 percent of whites.
The majority of Republicans surveyed — 74 percent — consider the flag a symbol of Southern pride, while the majority of Democrats surveyed — 72 percent— believe the flag is indicative of racism.
The NBC News Online Survey was conducted online by SurveyMonkey from June 3-5, 2015 among a national sample of 2,153 adults aged 18 and over. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in the SurveyMonkey Audience panel. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. A full description of our methodology and the survey can be found here. The survey was produced by the Analytics Unit of NBC News in conjunction with Penn's Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies with data collection and tabulation conducted by SurveyMonkey.
Analysis by the University of Pennsylvania's Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies.