The governor of the U.S. state of South Carolina is calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capitol, joining growing calls for it to be taken down at the State House.
Nikki Haley changed her position on the divisive symbol Monday, saying that while the flag is an integral part of the state's past, it no longer represents the future.
The flag was a symbol of the pro-slavery South during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. South Carolina was the first state to secede in that conflict.
Haley said it is her hope that the action of removing the flag from the capitol grounds in Columbia will honor the nine black church goers who were killed in Charleston last week. The suspect in the killings is a young white man who allegedly embraced the flag as a symbol of white supremacy.
Haley, a Republican, said that for many the flag stands for traditions that are noble and is a way to honor ancestors. However, she said for others, it is an offensive symbol. She said the events of last week "call us to look at this on a different way." She said the state house belongs to all South Carolinians.
The governor received loud applause and cheers when she made her announcement.
She said if state lawmakers do not take up the flag issue, she would call them back for a special legislative session.
Last week, former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney demanded that South Carolina remove the Confederate flag from state capitol grounds, calling it "a symbol of racial hatred."
His statement was widely seen as intensifying pressure on current Republican candidates to face an issue of race and symbolism that has long vexed the party and divided the southern state since the end of slavery 150 years ago.
Also on Monday, the White House said President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Charleston, South Carolina on Friday to attend the funeral services of the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the church shooting. Obama is scheduled to deliver his eulogy.
Watch video report from VOA's Zlatica Hoke: