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South Carolina Suspect in Court; Attack Renews Calls to Remove Confederate Flag. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired June 19, 2015 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:18]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: families forgive. As an accused killer makes his first court appearance, relatives of the victims come forward with words of forgiveness.

And a survivor of the massacre speaking in public for the first time tells him, "May God have mercy on you." You're going to hear her powerful words.

New phase. As police say they're still following up leads, we're seeing reports about what the confessed gunman is telling investigators. Did he intentionally target the historic Charleston church? We're going to hear from people who know him, including his family.

Common grief. This hour, the people of Charleston come together for a massive vigil. We will take you there live and to the makeshift memorial growing larger by the hour outside the church where the victims died.

And is it a symbol of hate? In the wake of the shootings, we're hearing new questions about why South Carolina still flies the Confederate Battle Flag on the grounds of its state capitol. Tonight, there are passionate calls to take it down.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news in Charleston, South Carolina. We're only moments away from the start of a massive vigil honoring the nine victims of Emanuel AME Church, the massacre there.

Just a few hours ago, Dylann Roof, who law enforcement officials say has confessed to the killings, made a videoconference appearance in court. In an unexpected and heart-stopping moment, a surviving of the massacre, a woman who lost her son that night, told him -- and I'm quoting -- "We welcomed you with open arms. We enjoyed you."

She and other relatives of the victims spoke of mercy and forgiveness, despite their tremendous pain.

In a just-released statement Roof's family says they are devastated, but also touched by the victims' moving words and offering of God's forgiveness.

We're covering every aspect of the still-unfolding investigation, including new information about what Roof's friends say he was thinking of doing in the weeks before the crime.

Our correspondents and analysts, they have been working their sources to bring you new and updated information. Also, the president of Charleston's NAACP is standing by to take our questions as well.

But let's begin with CNN's Martin Savidge. He's in Charleston -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as a result of the arrest warrants that were released right after the bond hearing, we have learned some new details.

And they include the fact that the victims were shot multiple times and that also it was the shooter's father and uncle who came forward. We're talking about Dylann Roof's father who came forward after he saw his son on that surveillance video that was circulated by police and I.D.ed him to the authorities.

Meanwhile, that bond hearing, it is usually routine. Today was anything but.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Law enforcement sources say Dylann Roof is a confessed mass murderer, staring downwards with little visible emotion as he appeared via video feed at a bond hearing today in Charleston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your age?

DYLANN ROOF, DEFENDANT: Twenty-one.

SAVIDGE: Roof only spoke a few words as he stood through the short hearing, charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor, I have met with Mr. Roof. I think he understands the proceedings.

SAVIDGE: It was the victims' families who spoke movingly of their loss.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but God forgives you. And I forgive you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every fiber in my body hurts. And I will never be the same.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are the family that love built. We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.

SAVIDGE: The judge surprised some onlookers when he asked for sympathy for Roof's family.

JAMES GOSNELL, CHARLESTON COUNTY MAGISTRATE: Nobody would have ever thrown them into the whirlwind of events that they have been thrown into. We must find it in our heart at some point in time, not only to help those that are victims, but to also help his family as well.

SAVIDGE: Law enforcement sources tell CNN Roof admitted that he shot worshipers in cold blood as they gathered for a Bible study Wednesday at historic Emanuel AME Church. His chilling motive? One source tells CNN that the 21-year-old wanted to start a race war.

Continuing to gather evidence against Roof, investigators have traced the .45-caliber handgun he was carrying to the shootings, and they say Roof bought it around his 21st birthday in April.

[18:05:02]

The gun holds 13 rounds. And witnesses to the shooting said Roof reloaded a number of times. When he bought the gun, Roof already faced a felony charge for drug possession. In February, an officer found illegal prescription drugs in his pocket, after employees at a shopping mall complained Roof was asking them unsettling questions about how many associates were working and what time they leave.

A police report says Roof told police he had no prescription and a friend had given him the drugs used to treat opiate conviction. But he hasn't been convicted of a felony, which might have shown up on a background check and prevented Roof from purchasing the gun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: And a short time ago, CNN received this statement from the Roof family.

And it reads like this -- quote -- "Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night. We are devastated and saddened by what occurred. We offer our prayers, sympathy for all of those impacted by these events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims' families offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering" -- the Roof family statement, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Martin, stand by. We're getting new information.

Also, it's coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about what Roof is telling investigators. Citing a source, CNN affiliate WBTV is reporting that Roof said he researched the church and targeted it because it turned out to be an historic African-American church.

CNN's Brian Todd is on the scene for us. He's getting more information.

I know you have been speaking, Brian, with one of Roof's friends. What did he say?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we have been speaking with Joey Meek.

He was a friend of Ryan -- excuse me -- Dylann Roof's from their middle school years. They lost touch a few years ago, then reconnected in recent months. Meek gave a very disturbing portrait of Dylann Roof's behavior in recent weeks, in the weeks leading up to this shooting. Especially, he said he had some very violent ideas about provoking tensions between the races. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEY MEEK, FORMER FRIEND OF DYLANN ROOF: I mean, he was just saying he wanted segregation. He wanted a race war. He wanted it to be white with white and black with black.

TODD: What did you say when he said that?

MEEK: I mean, I didn't agree with his opinion at all. And we just argued about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Now, Meek says that on the night that Dylann Roof talked about starting a race war, he said Roof had had about a liter of vodka, that he was really drunk, but that when he talked about this plan to maybe start a race war, Meek got very concerned and felt like he had to take action. Here's what he said he had to do next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEEK: Well, on that same night, I took his gun and I hid it. And the next morning, I didn't want to get in trouble with him saying I stole his gun, so I put his gun back in his trunk.

TODD: How do you feel about that now?

MEEK: Terrible, I mean, terrible, but, then again, I can't go back, because I was looking out for myself really because I didn't want to get in trouble for stealing a gun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But Meek says on the night of the shootings, he watched the coverage all night. Then the next morning, he called the FBI and identified Dylann Roof. He gave them a very detailed description, he says, of Roof's vehicle, of the license plate on his car, of the clothing that Roof was wearing.

He says he believes he was crucial in helping them capture Dylann Roof. But, as you know, Wolf, as you have been reporting, the father and the uncle also came forward to identify the shooter.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. We're standing by for that vigil for the victims of the

Charleston shooting. It's just getting under way right now. We're going to go there in a moment. We will hear from some of the friends and relatives.

But I want to go to CNN's Athena Jones first. She's got more on what's going on -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

It was heart-wrenching listening to those family members in court today bearing witness to their grief, but also remarkable to hear them both inside and outside of court talk so much about love and about forgiveness. It's something President Obama even commented on, on Twitter, all of this coming as we're learning more about the youngest victim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TYWANZA SANDERS, SHOOTING VICTIM: Sadly, another day, another dollar.

JONES (voice-over): Tywanza Sanders was an aspiring rapper who went by the name Fresh Wanza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please give it up for Ty Sanders.

JONES: In newly discovered YouTube video, the youngest of Charleston's church victims also appears to have tried his hand at comedy, even giving a shout-out to his parents from the stage.

SANDERS: Got my mom and dad in the back.

JONES: But, at just 26, Sanders came face-to-face with evil in his house of worship. He would be killed shortly after he filmed this Snapchat of his Bible study group. Survivors have told family friend Sylvia Johnson about those last moments with the shooter.

SYLVIA JOHNSON, RELATIVE OF VICTIM: He shot the young man. His mother was there. And she witnessed. She pretended as though she was dead, that she was shot and dead. But she watched her son fall and laid there, and she laid there in his blood.

[18:10:12]

JONES: After surviving the horrific shooting just two days ago, Sanders' mother came to court today to confront the lone suspect. He appeared on camera via video link. She can be heard off-camera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know. Tywanza Sanders is my son. But Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero.

JONES: A haunting end for a young man who recently shared a song online called, "What's Wrong With Just Being Black?"

SANDERS: And once you go black, you never go back. Ain't no way we can just be scrapped like metal.

JONES: For the young man who law enforcement say was hoping to start a race war with murder, victims, friends and family have only offered forgiveness.

Pastor Clementa Pinckney's cousin is urging the shooter to seek help.

PATRICIA HAMM, COUSIN OF VICTIM: I'm concerned that he gets the right help, that he ask even for forgiveness for what he's done and acknowledge that he did do wrong.

JONES: A college baseball star who lost his mother in the massacre is surrounded by support and showing nothing but love.

CHRIS SINGLETON, SON OF VICTIM: And love is always stronger than hate. So, we just love the way my mom would and the hate won't be anywhere close to what love is.

JONES: Sanders '87-year-old aunt, Susie Johnson, was killed alongside him, leaving their family to grieve.

TIM JACKSON, GRANDSON OF VICTIM: My family will forgive him, hopefully. And justice will do whatever they need to do to him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: And, Wolf, in addition to the tributes to honor the victims that we will hear at this prayer vigil tonight and the growing makeshift memorial behind me at Emanuel AME Church, the mayor of Charleston has announced that a fund has been set up for the church. People can make donations through Wells Fargo branches -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena, thank you very much.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, the president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, Dot Scott.

Dot, thanks very much for joining us.

I want to get your quick reaction to what we saw at that bond hearing today. Dylann Roof, he appeared via video. You saw that there. You heard the judge make a statement at the beginning of the bond hearing saying that the family of Dylann Roof also deserves sympathy and forgiveness. What did you make of the judge's remarks?

DOT SCOTT, PRESIDENT, CHARLESTON NAACP: I agree with the judge's remarks.

Oftentimes, when things like this happen, it's easy to blame everybody that's connected to it, and the sins of one is attributed to all. I think the family deserves to be considered, and also that they deserve to be prayed for as well, because they are suffering a loss as well, not as great as those who lost their family members, but, nonetheless, this family is grieving as well. BLITZER: Our affiliate WBTV is reporting, Dot, that Dylann Roof

researched -- researched this historic church and he targeted it after learning it was in fact a very, very historic African-American church in the United States. Are you hearing the same thing?

SCOTT: Absolutely. And I think that gives credence to the belief that this was indeed a hate crime, that this was deliberate, intentional, and well-thought-out.

BLITZER: And when people say, well, this guy was just mentally ill, he was just a crazy guy, you say?

SCOTT: I say, it does a disservice to mentally ill people, truly mentally ill people, when we attribute any misbehavior or hateful act and say that the person is mentally ill. I -- at this point, there's nothing to support that assertion.

BLITZER: Dot, I want you to stand by. We have more to discuss. You're on the scene there in Charleston. You lead the local branch of the NAACP.

We're also standing by to go to that vigil in Charleston. We're hearing some opening benedictions right now. We will hear what's going on over there. And we will watch it together with you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:19:14]

BLITZER: We're covering the breaking news in Charleston, South Carolina, where a massive vigil for the victims of the church massacre is now under way. We're going to go there in just a moment.

But we're speaking with the head of the Charleston NAACP, Dot Scott.

Also, I want to bring in our CNN anchor Don Lemon, who's on the scene for us.

Don, set the scene. We're going to go listen to the vigil in a moment. But I want to get -- I want to get your thoughts on what's going on. You have been there now for the past couple of days.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and there's a makeshift -- a growing makeshift memorial out here in front of the church. And we're standing in front of the church as well.

And more people are starting to show up to this vigil. What's interesting to me is the diversity of this and talking to people that are saying, we don't want this to represent our state, definitely don't want it to represent the city here. And, well, I'm not sure if they're going to be there, but they held their own sort of memorial for people wanting to know more about the sister.

[18:20:07] The relatives of Cynthia Hurd -- Cynthia Hurd was a librarian

here, and they're naming the library she worked at in her honor soon. But I got a chance, Wolf, to speak with her brother, both of her brothers, two of her brothers, at least. One of her brothers, Malcolm, said he wanted everybody to know something really important about his sister.

Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I think what resonated with most people and when we were here listening to you, you said, she's not a victim. She's...

MALCOLM GRAHAM, BROTHER OF CYNTHIA HURD: She's a Christian. And she's not a victim. And I just refuse to call her that. She's more than that. She's a Christian. She's my sister. I mean, she's my best friend. She's my confidant. And she loved this community. She loved her family. She loved being a librarian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Her birthday will -- would have been Sunday, Wolf. The family says they're going to spend it in quiet contemplation, thinking about her, celebrating her life.

And you can watch more of the family tonight "A.C. 360" at 8:00, and then you can see it on my show at 10:00 as well.

BLITZER: And you're going to be doing a live show at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight as well, isn't that right?

LEMON: Ten, Wolf, 10:00.

BLITZER: It's only at 10:00.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes. All right.

BLITZER: I thought it was going to be at 9:00 as well. All right, 10:00.

Don, don't go too far away. I want to get back to you.

I want to go to that vigil though right now. Take a look at this. James Clyburn is about to be introduced. He's the longtime representative from South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives. We await for James Clyburn to speak.

Dot is still with us. Dot Scott is the president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP.

Dot, this is a powerful moment for your community, isn't it? Tell us what's going on behind the scenes.

SCOTT: Well, absolutely.

I think what I'm hearing and what we saw yesterday with the gathering of people, as diverse as they were, it sends the message that the accomplishment or the intended accomplishment of the shooter, it's not going to happen. It will not be mission accomplished.

I think we're going to be stronger because of this, and I think that these deaths are going to effect some changes that are going to be positive changes.

BLITZER: This is a moment where, potentially, Dot, you can do some healing in Charleston and in South Carolina, because people are coming together. That's the impression I'm getting.

SCOTT: Well, I think we can do some healing, but we still have issues that have to be fixed. It's, we heal and then we have another incident of abuse.

We have to figure out how to fix things, that we are not repeating the same kinds of sadness and sorrow and what I call a massacre, I mean, at the worst possible degree that any community has to endure. So, I think there needs to be some things done in order for the healing to not be reversed.

BLITZER: What are the things that need to be fixed?

SCOTT: Well, I think that the fact that you have got a 21-year- old that is so ingrained with the idea that African-Americans have somehow taken this country, and he felt the need to exterminate these people, sends a message that we have got a bigger problem than whether or not we have ability to heal.

It's not surprising these people of the Christian family, these folks are forgiving, because the Scriptures clearly state, justice is mine, says the lord. So, we expect to find, and particularly among these African-American churchgoers, that their families will forgive and begin to heal.

But, as a community, as a state, we have to look at issues that would breathe and feed this mind-set that results in this kind of behavior.

BLITZER: Dot Scott is the president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP.

Dot, thank you very much for sharing some thoughts with our viewers.

SCOTT: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead, we're getting some new information about how Dylann Roof actually got the gun he used in that church massacre. Was it legal for him to buy it?

Plus, more of tonight's emotional vigil for the nine victims. We're going to go there live and see what's going on. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:29:08]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, the Charleston church gunman, Dylann Roof, appearing in court by video, listening stoically as relatives of some of the nine victims addressed him directly and emotionally.

They spoke of their pain. They spoke of their grief. Some of them, though, offered forgiveness, yes, forgiveness to the 21-year- old.

Let's get some more. Joining us, Cedric Alexander of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. He's a CNN law enforcement analyst. Also, CNN justice reporter Evan Perez and former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes. He's our law enforcement analyst as well.

Evan, the Southern Poverty Law Center says there are 19 hate groups in South Carolina. I know federal investigators are looking into whether any of them potentially could have inspired, motivated Roof to go out and kill these people at this historic African-American church.

How do they go about doing this?

PEREZ: Well, so far they've found no links, Wolf. They've been looking and they've been trying to talk to people, talking to his family, talking to his friends. And what they've arrived at so far is that we're talking about a lone loser, really, who was -- somehow had affinity for Apartheid-era, South African, Rhodesia. It was things that really don't make sense any more, even in white supremacist circles. And so that's where the investigators are right now.

BLITZER: They're also trying to figure out whether or not that gun he purchased, Cedric, did he do it legally, illegally? He was charged with a felony, had not yet been convicted of a felony. He was convicted of a misdemeanor on some drug-related charge, having a false prescription for some drug. Based on what you're hearing right now, was that legal for him, background checks, to purchase that handgun?

ALEXANDER: Well, had he not -- it appears he was not convicted of a felony, so therefore, there was his out.

BLITZER: If you're convicted of a misdemeanor, you could still go buy a gun in South Carolina?

ALEXANDER: Yes, as far as I know. I don't know specific to South Carolina. But certainly in many states you have not -- you cannot have been convicted of a felony, and that's probably the case here. You know in which we are seeing, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He was charged, but he wasn't convicted. What do you make of the fact that he was able to get this gun, Tom? You served a long time in the FBI.

FUENTES: Right. I think it's common. You have most states where, you know, if you're not convicted of a felony, you certainly can get a gun legally, if you're old enough and, you know, there aren't other -- you haven't been adjudged mentally ill or any other circumstance like that, you can get a gun.

BLITZER: Take us behind the scenes. What is the FBI looking at right now? Because they are directly involved in this investigation.

FUENTES: Right, they've been involved from the beginning. What they're looking at, in addition to gathering all the rest of the evidence, you know, helping the police do that.

But they're also looking at whether or not they could even bring a terror charge, prove it, bring a hate crime, and prove it. When they already have a state crime calling for nine sentences of death for the murder of the people already.

So I think at this point, if it's declared a terrorism case, then that means that the FBI would become the lead agency. And I think right now they want to let South Carolina be the lead, prosecute this case, and be responsible for what happens to convict him and, presumably, if he gets the death penalty, implement it.

BLITZER: Based on everything you're hearing, Evan, are his family members cooperating with law enforcement?

PEREZ: They certainly are, Wolf. They -- the father and the uncle were among the people who called in to Charleston police after they put out this picture and the tag number and the description of the vehicle that they were looking for after the shooting. And they were among the ones who called in to say who they thought this was.

So that is something that was -- that is viewed as being very helpful. They provided access to his computer. Things that they can use, the FBI and the Charleston police are looking at to try to see if they can explain more about exactly why he did this.

BLITZER: Cedric, in this court document that was released by the Charleston Police Department today -- you've read it, I've read it -- it says specifically, the father and the uncle of the defendant contacted CPD, Charleston Police Department, and positively identified the defendant and his vehicle as those they saw in the photographs.

They -- the document is also pretty illuminating. It says all the victims were hit multiple times. He didn't just shoot them once. He shot them multiple times. Prior to leaving the Bible study room he stood over a witness, to be named later, and uttered a racially inflammatory statement to the witness. So all of this will be used against him?

ALEXANDER: Yes, absolutely. And I tell you, sickening as it is, you know, we know that he was firing an automatic weapon. I believe it was reported with a 14-round clip. So that means you fired off that clip, you reload... BLITZER: A .45-caliber handgun.

ALEXANDER: A .45-caliber handgun. Automatic weapon, right?

And I tell you, that's a lot of rounds. And a lot of reloading. And it is just very sad. But yes, absolutely, all of those statements have become part of this case going forward in a trial. And it's just very sickening to think about, Wolf.

BLITZER: Because he came in there, and he actually studied them, presumably, spent an hour sitting with them in this Bible study class, and they welcomed him. They let him sit there. And then he pulls out this handgun and he starts killing people.

FUENTES: Yes. That's going to take away the argument that his defense lawyer might make someday that, "Oh, it was a spur of the moment. It was like road rage. He just snapped."

He sat there; he thought about it. He had a calm demeanor. He'd already made up his mind what he was going to do. It's going to be hard to argue that he didn't do what he intended to do in that murder.

BLITZER: Yes. It's also going to be evident that he tried to escape. So he knew what he did was wrong. And so if he does -- if his lawyer decides to cop some sort of insanity plea, that's not going to probably go anywhere.

PEREZ: That's probably right. And this is a -- obviously, a young man who's been troubled for some time. And investigators don't believe that he just arrived at this recently. This is something that he has believed certainly from what you're hearing from his classmates, that he's believed some of these things for a long, long time, Wolf. And that's going to play into this, as well.

[18:35:05] BLITZER: I want all of you to stand by. Because we're going to go to this vigil that is now under way. The Charleston church massacre reigniting also a heated debate. But let's listen in for a moment to what's going on at the vigil.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:22] BLITZER: We're watching an emotional, very emotional vigil under way in Charleston tonight. We're going to go there in a few moments. I want you to watch together with us. There's something very important I want to point out. Actually, you know what? Let's listen in.

DR. BRENDA NELSON, MT. MORIAH MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: ... in my father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.

And whether I go ye know and the way ye know. Thomas said unto him, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest and how can we know the way?" Jesus said unto him, "I am the way, the truth and the light. No

man cometh unto the father but by me. If ye had known me, you should have known my father also. And from henceforth, you know him and have seen him."

Thus endeth the reading of God's holy word, God's word for God's people, amen.

BLITZER: That was Dr. Brenda Nelson from the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. She was actually at the church earlier that day, getting ready for the Bible study class, but she had a problem at home. She had to rush home. She survived. She is alive because of this air-conditioning problem that we're told she had at home.

And she spoke there, delivering a little scripture reading at appropriate moment at this vigil. We're going to go back there.

But I want to share with you some other news that we're getting. The Charleston church massacre is reigniting a serious debate over the Confederate battle flag. Some people now calling for it to be removed from a memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more now on the simmering controversy threatening to boil over.

Tom, what is the latest?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the simple truth is right now some black lawmakers are so upset by the most recent images of the Confederate flag, they're pledging to renew their political battle to essentially push it off the capitol grounds altogether. But that is a tall order, even under these circumstances.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Even in the wake of overwhelming sadness, even amid charges of horrific crimes, there it is. The Confederate flag flying above the grounds of the South Carolina capitol while outrage erupts below.

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: This was a racial hate crime and must be confronted as such. That symbol has to come down.

FOREMAN: The U.S. flag was ordered to half-staff, but the rebel flag remained high, padlocked into place. Why? State law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring it down!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring it down!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring it down!

FOREMAN: In 2000 civil rights activists successfully lobbied for a larger Confederate flag to be removed from the capitol dome. But in exchange, all other tributes to the Confederacy, influencing the flag on the capitol lawn, became untouchable without an override by two- thirds of the state legislature.

That's not likely here or in other places, where some have said for years the flag is about southern pride, heritage. In Mississippi it's even part of the state flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here to show our support, that you know, we're proud of being who we are and where we're from.

FOREMAN: Opponents equate that to defending what Germany did under Hitler. Actor Wendell Pierce from "The Wire" tweeted, "The Nazis are responsible for the Autobahn and advancing rocket science. Do we fly the Nazi flag to remember that heritage?"

It's an old debate. Even top politicians admit it has new resonance.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the state will start talking about that again. We'll see where it goes.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: At the end of the day, it's time for people in South Carolina to revisit that decision, would be fine with me.

FOREMAN: Maybe times have changed. Just this week the U.S. Supreme Court said Texas can deny requests for license plates featuring the Confederate flag. But nine other states still allow it on their plates, including South Carolina, even as opponents are pushing a symbol of their own, #takeitdownsc.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: It is important not to see this as a monolithic thing where only the blacks citizens of South Carolina want this changed. Indeed the white mayor of Charleston, Joe Riley, back in 2000 was one of the organizers who led a 120-mile march to Columbia saying, the time has passed. This flag needs to be part of the past. So there are plenty of people in that state of both races who feel that this is a relic of the past that should be put into museums, as President Obama has said, if only because it makes so many citizens feel so terribly bad there, Wolf, especially at this time.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you. Now let's get some more now.