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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley Signs Bill Removing Confederate Flag

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a bill that removes the Confederate battle flag from the capitol.

They're taking it down.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday signed into law a measure to remove the contentious Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol, the culmination of a years-long movement that was reignited by the murders of nine members of a historically black church in Charleston.

Before adding her signature to the legislation, Haley spoke of the black victims, who were killed by a white man after they welcomed him into a June 17 prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Church.

Their act of love and faith, Haley said, set into motion a chain of events that led to the flag's removal less than a month later.

"May we never forget the actions that those people took to get us to this point today," the governor said.

Haley noted that when the confessed killer, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was caught, relatives of the victims said in court that they forgave him. That act of forgiveness, Haley said, sparked a wave of compassion around the country that motivated people to change things.

In the days after the shootings, photos emerged of Roof posing with the Confederate flag, a Civil War relic that is also seen as an emblem of racism. That sparked a nationwide debate about the flag's place in American culture. Many businesses stopped making and selling the flag and its images, and public officials discussed removing the flag from public grounds.

That included South Carolina, which first flew the Confederate flag at Capitol in Columbia in 1962 as a response to the civil rights movement.

The state legislature, which lost state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Emanuel's top pastor, in the shooting, responded by voting overwhelmingly this week to take the flag down.

The shootings forced a change in Haley, too. The Republican governor had previously opposed calls to lower the flag, and had voiced support of a 2000 compromise in which the flag was moved from atop the Capitol dome to a nearby flag pole. But she shifted her view amid the furor that followed the shootings.

She signed her name to the legislation with several pens, nine of which will go the families of the victims.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina praised the flag's removal. "After the horrific tragedy in Charleston, our state could have gone down one of two paths, division or reconciliation," Graham said in a statement. "I am thankful we chose the path of reconciliation."

Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. said the flag had been an insult to many people, and its removal would help heal those wounds. "Our state’s response to a horrific act of racial hatred has been a clear and decisive act of graceful unity, respect and healing for all of our citizens," he said.

The flag will be removed at 10 a.m. ET Friday.