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Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Saturday joined those calling for South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in the wake of Wednesday’s deadly shooting at a historic black church in Charleston.
"To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor Charleston victims," Romney said in a Twitter post Saturday.
A large crowd rallied for more than an hour at the statehouse Saturday calling for the Civil War flag to be taken off government property, chanting "take it down" and singing "We Shall Overcome," The Associated Press reported. Demonstrators said the flag is a symbol of hatred.
Admitted gunman Dylan Roof, 21, appears to have identified with the Confederate flag. He opened fire on a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Wednesday, killing nine people in what police have described as a hate crime.
Roof drove a car with a license plate featuring the Confederate flag, and a white supremacist website that may be linked to Roof shows images that purport to show Roof holding the flag.
The controversy was further inflamed this week when American flags at the statehouse were lowered to half-staff after the shooting, but the Confederate flag was not. Any changes to the status of the flag must be approved by the state Assembly, which was not in session.
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush weighed in on the controversy Saturday, in a statement that suggested the state should move the flag. Bush, the former governor of Florida, said that state moved the Confederate flag from state grounds "to a museum where it belonged."
"Following a period of mourning, there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward and I’m confident they will do the right thing,” Bush said in a statement.
South Carolina State Rep. Norman "Doug" Brannon, a Republican, said on MSNBC’s "All In With Chris Hayes" Friday that he will introduce a bill to remove the flag.