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Graham And Haley Set To Join Those Calling For Flag's Removal In S.C.

A Confederate flag that's part of a Civil War memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse flies during a Martin Luther King Day rally in 2008. The state is under fire for continuing to fly the flag.
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A Confederate flag that's part of a Civil War memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse flies during a Martin Luther King Day rally in 2008. The state is under fire for continuing to fly the flag.

Calls for moving the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of South Carolina's Statehouse have grown since the shooting of nine black church members in Charleston last week. And now NPR's Juana Summers confirms that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will also call for the flag to be removed.

Graham, a Republican presidential candidate, is expected to announce his support for moving the Confederate flag at a 4 p.m. ET news conference in Columbia. When he makes the announcement, he'll do so alongside Gov. Nikki Haley, Juana says.

According to local TV WIS News, "South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas has already called for "swift resolution" on the Confederate flag issue."

Since it came down from atop South Carolina's State House in 2000, the Confederate battle flag has been in a prominent spot outside the General Assembly, next to the state's Confederate Soldier Monument. Its removal would require an action by state lawmakers.

Earlier Monday, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey spoke at a bipartisan news conference held by leaders who say it's time for the controversial flag to come down from its place on the Statehouse grounds.

"It's a historical flag, a piece of history, and it belongs in a history museum," Riley said. He added that the flag had been "appropriated as a symbol of hate" years ago.

Just after noon today, Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, also called for the flag's removal. The university's main campus is a block from the Statehouse grounds.

Those calls echo sentiments that have long been held by the NAACP — and that were renewed on Friday, when NAACP President Cornell Brooks told a crowd in Charleston:

"When we see that symbol lifted up as an emblem of hate, as a tool of hate, as an inspiration for hate, as an inspiration for violence — that symbol has to come down, that symbol must be removed from our state capitol."

The debate over the flag was reignited after images of the chief suspect in the Charleston killings, Dylann Roof, was shown to have been displaying an image of the Confederate flag on his car. Roof, 21, is a native of the Columbia area.

The Confederate flag also figures prominently in photos of Roof that surfaced over the weekend, on a website titled The Last Rhodesian, as Scott reported for the Two-Way.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.