Amid pressures from local protesters and national advocates, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley issued a call to take down the Confederate flag that has been flying in front of the statehouse grounds for more than 50 years.
Although acknowledging that many Southerners still revere the Confederate flag, Haley said on Monday the time has come to remove that which has become "a deeply offensive symbol of brutally offensive past."
"We are here in a moment of unity in our state without ill will to say it is time to remove the flag from our capitol grounds," Haley said in her bid to make a concrete gesture of healing five days after the Charleston shooting, according to CNN.
"This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state," she emphasised.
Haley, the first woman and first American-Indian to serve as South Carolina governor, issued the statement just a few days after displaying little interest to address the flag issue, which some said has divided the American nation since the shooting.
Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, Reps. Jim Clyburn and Mark Sanford as well Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, together with heads of both state parties, stood beside Haley during the announcement on Monday.
"Some divisions are bigger than a flag... We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer. The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is something we cannot stand," she said, according to Washington Post.
Over the weekend, authorities confirmed discovering a racist manifesto in a website that contained references to the Confederacy as well as images of the Confederate flag which belonged to Charleston shooting gunman Dylann Roof.
This sparked more calls for the removal of the flag in front of the State legislature near the state Capitol in Columbia.
Haley, a two-term Republican governor, said the state legislature would address the flag issue in an extraordinary session on Tuesday, promising to call an emergency session over the summer should it fail to do so.
Rep. Doug Brannon, who authored a bill that seeks to remove the flag entirely from the capitol, said the bill received ample support among colleagues he had spoken with in the House.
"The flag of their heritage is fine for them. And their flag of heritage needs to be in a museum. The flag that I'm talking about was put up by a bunch of white guys in 1962 in response to desegregation," Brannon said.
"And that's not heritage. That's hate," he added, according to the Guardian.
Walmart earlier announced that it will pull out all Confederate flag merchandise from all its stores.
The largest retailer in America has been carrying the Confederate flag as well as clothes featuring the flag's design like T-shirts and belt buckles.
"We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment—whether in our stores or on our website," Walmart spokesman Brian Nick said.