US state to take down Confederate flag

The House of Representatives in the southern US state of South Carolina has voted overwhelmingly to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds.

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The bill achieved its required two-thirds majority after a 13-hour debate, media reports said.

The votes followed the bill’s passage by the Senate this week, three weeks after a shooting at an African American church killed nine people in Charleston, South Carolina.

Photographs surfaced after the slayings of the white 21-year-old charged with the killings, Dylann Roof, showing him posing with the Confederate flag and prompting a drive to take it down from the state Capitol grounds.

The flag was flown by separatist Southern states during the 1861-65 US Civil War, which was fought over slavery.

Many consider it to be a racist symbol, but many white Southerners see it as a symbol of their heritage and a way to honour their ancestors’ sacrifices in the war.

The legislation must now be signed by Governor Nikki Haley to become law.

She had called for the removal of the flag after the shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

South Carolina in 1860 became the first Southern state to secede from the United States, and the first shots of the Civil War were fired the following year in Charleston.

The state re-erected the Confederate flag, which features white stars on a diagonal blue cross against a red background, on the Capitol grounds more than 50 years ago to protest the civil rights movement.

Haley said removing the flag would create a more inclusive state government.

“That flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said days after the church shootings, which killed six women and three men, ages 26 to 87, during a Bible study.

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