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S. Carolina Lawmakers to Debate Removal of Confederate Flag

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley addresses a full church during a prayer vigil held at Morris Brown AME Church for the victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, June 18, 2015.

Lawmakers in the southern U.S. state of South Carolina will begin debating whether to remove the Civil War-era Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol.

The debate follows an appeal by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to remove it.

Hundreds of people have held weekly demonstrations urging lawmakers to scrap the official public display of what the protesters call a symbol of racism and slavery.

The young white gunman who admitted killing nine African-Americans inside a Charleston church last month is a self-confessed racist who has been pictured holding the Confederate flag.

Many in South Carolina have been calling for the removal of the flag for years.

Many in the state were stunned to see the Confederate flag still flying at the top of a pole on the State House grounds while the U.S. and state flags flew at half-staff in tribute to the shooting victims.

The Confederate flag flew from the top of the South Carolina State House from 1962 until it was moved to a Civil War memorial in 2000. Flag opponents say it was originally put up over the Capitol to defy racial integration.

The church massacre has also prompted other states to revisit their own relationship to Confederate symbols.The legacy of the war that divided the nation includes statues in statehouses, special license plates drivers can purchase that feature the symbols, as well as numerous roads and schools named after generals and politicians from the Confederate States of America.