Haley says she won’t violate law by temporarily removing Confederate flag

The South Carolina Statehouse or the South Carolina General Assembly were the legislature consisting of the South Carolina House of Representatives and State Senate meet. The Confederate battle flag flies at a memorial in front of the statehouse. Photographed May 12, 2014. Grace Beahm/Staff

COLUMBIA — The Confederate battle flag will continue to fly on the Statehouse grounds today, despite efforts to remove it temporarily.

Gov. Nikki Haley said she still wants to see the flag removed permanently, but doesn’t want to break the law by claiming it’s down for repairs, said Haley’s spokeswoman Chaney Adams.

“Based on the 2000 law, (Haley) does not have the authority to remove the flag herself, today or any day, and rather than violate that law, she will continue to work to change it,” Adams said.

Haley does not have the authority to remove the flag from the grounds. A two-thirds vote by both chambers of the General Assembly is needed to tamper with any of the monuments that are part of the Statehouse complex. That includes the battle flag, which flies as part of the Confederate Soldier Monument that commemorates those who died during the Civil War.

House Democrats have argued that state law allows for the replacement of flags “at appropriate intervals as many be necessary due to wear.” Tyler Jones, spokesman for state House Democrats, said Wednesday that provision would have allowed Haley to remove the flag during the viewing for Sen. Clementa Pinckney, which takes place between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Pinckney, pastor of Charleston’s Emanuel AME church, was killed along with eight others at the historic black church last week by a white gunman shown holding a Confederate flag on racist websites, Dylann Roof, 21, of Eastover.

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Since the mass killing, the state has been under fire for flying the Confederate battle flag at the monument on Statehouse grounds. On Tuesday, lawmakers voted to allow discussion of removing the Confederate battle flag during a special session, although it is unlikely that will occur until next week at the earliest.

On Wednesday, four former state governors issued a joint statement supporting Gov. Haley’s call to remove of the flag.

“Last week’s tragic events at Mother Emanuel AME Church have reminded us of the important bond we share as South Carolina citizens,” the note said. “We should fly only the United States and South Carolina Flags on our Statehouse grounds- flags that represent us all.”

It was signed by former Govs. Fritz Hollings, Dick Riley, David Beasley and Jim Hodges.