US & Canada

Confederate flag to be removed from South Carolina capitol

State Rep. John King, right, hugs a woman after the House approved a bill removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds. Image copyright AP
Image caption The flag is seen by some as an icon of slavery while others say it symbolises US heritage

The House of Representatives in South Carolina has voted to take down the Confederate flag from capitol grounds after a long and fractious debate.

After a final procedural vote, the bill was then signed by Republican Governor Nikki Haley later on Thursday.

The flag will be removed at 10:00 ET (14:00 GMT) on Friday, according to Ms Haley's office.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Congress have called for talks on the flying of the flag across the US.

Republicans in the US House of Representatives cancelled a vote on Thursday on a measure that would have defended the flying of the banner in cemeteries operated by the National Park Service.

The backlash against the emblem grew when a gunman killed nine black people at a Charleston church last month.

Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old charged with the killings, was pictured holding the flag.

The flag - used by the South in the American Civil War (1860-65) - is seen by some as an icon of slavery and racism while others say it symbolises US heritage and history.

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Media captionRepublican representative Jenny Horne gave an impassioned plea for the flag's removal during the debate
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Media captionRepublican representative Eric Bedingfield said he had "struggled" with the issues around the debate

'Insult to injury'

The House vote was taken early on Thursday morning after 13 hours of debate and passed 93-27.

During a heated session, dozens of amendments by Republicans aimed at slowing down passage of the bill were rejected.

Some Republicans argued the flag was part of US history that had been "hijacked" by racists.

Analysis: Nick Bryant, BBC News, South Carolina

Image caption The flag debate has been heated on both sides

The dramatic vote came after more than 13 hours of impassioned, angry and sometimes tearful debate. In pleading with her fellow lawmakers to bring down the controversial battle flag, one Republican even reminded colleagues that she was a descendant of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

But it is South Carolina's recent history that has transformed this debate and in particular the pictures which emerged after last month's Charleston massacre showing the alleged killer Dylann Roof brandishing a flag long seen as a symbol of slavery, segregation and black subordination.

South Carolina was where the first shots of the Civil War rang out. Given the passions still aroused by that conflict in parts of the American south, it's tempting to see this historic vote almost as a final surrender.

Representative Mike Pitts said the flag was a reminder of how poor farmers had fought the Union not to support slavery but to protect their land rights.

Chris Corley proposed replacing the emblem with a white flag of surrender, saying: "Maybe that will make everybody happy."

But fellow Republican representative Jenny Horne, a descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, recalled the funeral of state Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the Charleston attack, and said there should be no stalling on the removal of the flag.

She said: "For the widow of Sen Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury and I will not be a part of it!"

Democratic Party Representative Joe Neal said: "South Carolina can remove the stain from our lives. I never thought in my lifetime I would see this."

The Confederate flag was originally the battle emblem of the southern states in the American Civil War which tried to break away.

South Carolina was the first state to leave the union in 1860. It restored the flag in the capitol grounds more than 50 years ago in protest at the civil rights movement.

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