Jul 9, 2015 4:42 PM by NBC News
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday signed into law a measure to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol, the culmination of a years-long movement that was reignited by the murders of nine members of a historically black Charleston church last month.
Before adding her signature to the legislation, Haley spoke of the black victims, who were killed by a white man after they welcomed him into a June 17 prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston.
Their act of love and faith, Haley said, set into motion a chain of events that led to the flag's removal less than a month later.
"May we never forget the actions that those people took to get us to this point today," the governor said.
Haley noted that when the confessed killer, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was caught, relatives of the victims said in court that they forgave him. That act of forgiveness, Haley said, sparked a wave of compassion around the country that motivated people to change things.
South Carolina's legislature responded, she said, by voting overwhelmingly this week to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, an issue that the state has struggled with since the flag was first raised at the State House in 1962.
The shootings forced a change in Haley, too. The Republican governor had previously opposed calls to lower the flag, and had voiced support of a 2000 compromise in which the flag was moved from atop the capitol dome to a nearby flag pole. But she shifted her view amid the furor that followed the shootings.
Removing the flag required the approval of the state legislature, which voted this week to take it down. State Sen. Clementa Pickney, pastor of the church, was among those killed.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said South Carolina's "response to a horrific act of racial hatred has been a clear and decisive act of graceful unity, respect and healing for all of our citizens."