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Are South Carolina lawmakers ready to lower the statehouse Confederate flag?

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Bruce Smith/AP

(Read caption) Supporters of keeping the Confederate battle flag flying at a Confederate monument at the South Carolina Statehouse wave flags during a rally in front of the statehouse in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday. According to a local paper's survey, South Carolina lawmakers appear to be set to vote to take down the statehouse's official Confederate flag, at top left.

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A poll of South Carolina lawmakers has revealed that the state legislature may have the two-thirds majority necessary to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse building, the Charleston-based Post and Courier reported Monday.  

According to the poll conducted by the local paper, at least 33 state senators and 83 House members say the flag should be removed.

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“I just think that it’s time,” Rep. Mike Forrester (R), told the Post and Courier Monday. “It’s causing too many problems. ... I think it needs to be in a place of honor, but probably not on the Statehouse grounds.”

The Confederate battle flag has been the focus of protests and controversy following the fatal shooting of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. on June 17. The suspect in the Charleston shooting, Dylann Roof, appears in numerous online photographs with the Confederate flag.

Following the shooting, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag to be removed from the South Carolina State House grounds.

“The issue of the Confederate battle flag, however, has long been contentious in the state and throughout the South,” the Monitor’s Harry Bruinius reported following the governor’s speech.

“As the civil rights movement began to emerge in 1962, lawmakers voted to place the stars and bars at the top of the State House that year to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War. In 2000, the flag was removed and placed in memorial next to the building – a compromise after a business boycott led by the NAACP.”

Next week, South Carolina lawmakers are expected to consider proposals to remove the flag and move it to a museum.

Gibbs Knotts, a College of Charleston political science professor, told the Post and Courier that the strong support in the conservative Legislature for removing the flag probably reflects the “big public shift” in South Carolina and the rest of the country in favor of removing Confederate symbols.

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Supporters of the flag are still making their voices heard, however. Also on Monday, one man was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after a fight broke out over the flag in front of the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia.

The fight began that evening when around 10 supporters of the Confederate flag clashed with about 30 people who were protesting the flag on the Statehouse grounds, a statement confirmed.

Around 50 police officers responded to contain the fight, and two street blocks in front of the Statehouse were closed off for a brief period during the altercation.