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After Charleston killings, S.C. debates taking down Confederate flag

South Carolina lawmakers are debating whether to remove the Confederate flag from state government grounds, after Wednesday’s killing of nine black church members by a white gunman who allegedly expressed racist sentiments. Gov.Nikki Haley will speak at 4 p.m., as lawmakers grapple with whether to make a change immediately or wait for what promises to be an emotional debate. Meanwhile, local officials and national civil rights activists have demanded the flag’s removal. President Obama has said the flag should be removed and placed in a museum.AFP 541827135 A CLJ USA SC

“It’s time for the flag to come down,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “Public sanction of the symbols of division and hatred does not create an atmosphere of reconciliation.” The Confederate flag became a focus of attention after the Charleston killings Wednesday because it harkens to the Civil War, when slavery ended. Supporters of the flag contend it is historically significant as a memorial to Confederate soldiers who died while fighting for the South, while critics say it promotes racism.

Dylann Storm Roof, 21, is charged with shooting members – including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney – of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, after complaining that “blacks were taking over the world” and that “someone needed to do something about it for the white race,” according to a friend who alerted the FBI. The Urban League announced Monday a campaign to encourage South Carolina legislators to end public displays of the Confederate flag.The “One Nation, One Flag” campaign will instead seek to promote unity around the U.S. flag, Morial said.

The Urban League has declined to hold its conventions in South Carolina until the flag is removed. But Morial pledged Monday to hold its national meeting in the state once the flag is removed from the capitol grounds. Charleston Trident Urban League President Otha Meadows called the sight of the flag on the grounds of South Carolina’s state capitol grounds “salt in our wounds,” following the massacre of nine people at the church last week.