The Confederate flag will be removed from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds on Friday morning, a spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday.

An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway Patrol took down the flag in a ceremony. Just moments ago, the Confederate battle flag was removed from the front of the Statehouse in the capital, Columbia.

The ceremony at the Confederate war memorial, where the flag has spent the past 14 or so years – it used to fly over the Capitol until 2000 – was brief, and drew cheers and chants of “USA!” from thousands of onlookers.

The Confederate flag flying outside the South Carolina Statehouse was taken down at 10 am today. Lawmakers and relatives of the victims of the church massacre stood on the steps of the Statehouse to watch, many with tears in their eyes. “No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel like they don’t belong”.

“Will people still wear the symbol on their T-shirts or fly it from their homes?”

The crowd erupted in cheers as the honor guard grabbed the flag and unhooked it from the rope that held it in place.

Haley called for the flag’s removal within days of the massacre.

Ms Haley, who initiated the bold move, in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of several black people inside a church last month by a white supremacist, was hailed nationally for this effort.

Haley said the removal of symbols that have become divisive is the right thing to do for the family members of those killed at Charleston’s Emanuel AME. Some view the banner as a symbol of slavery, while others consider it an emblem of Southern heritage. “And no one should ever drive by the statehouse and feel pain”, Haley said.

Under state law, the flag could only be removed with the approval of two-thirds of South Carolina’s Senate and House of Representatives.

The flag, which was originally created to represent the Confederate States Army, was toted by Roof in various photos and appears on his license plate.

Poisoned mind… Dylann Roof, 21, indicted on nine counts of murder, had been photographed before the attack brandishing both firearms and the Confederate flag.

A van will take the flag to a nearby museum, where it will be housed.

“People say he was wrapped in hate, that he was a hateful person”, said Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg. “I think you can look at the way South Carolina responded to this tragedy, and I think we can all say that, hopefully, the Emanuel Nine are looking down and feeling proud today”.

The flag was raised over the South Carolina Capitol dome in 1961.