A crowd cheered and chanted “USA, USA!” as South Carolina highway patrol officers rolled the flag down from the 30-foor flagpole, detached it and folded it with careful precision.
The reversal seemed unthinkable just a month ago.
The renewed call to remove it grew exponentially in recent weeks, after white supremacist Dylann Roof massacred nine African Americans attending bible study at the historic black church.
An Upstate reverend confronted another man dressed as a Confederate soldier and blamed him for slavery and racially-motivated lynchings during the Civil War.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who called for the flag’s removal, walked out on the Capitol steps Friday to take a look at the scene and to talk to officers ahead of the ceremony.
The Confederate flag was flown on top of the State House dome starting in the early 1960s, in protest of the growing civil-rights movement. The flagpole, too, will be torn down, but no timetable is set. The flag will then be transferred to the Confederate Relic Room.
State lawmakers joined her. They voted this week to banish the banner despite objections from some legislators who argued the flag and other symbols of the Confederacy did not represent that hate demonstrated by the accused shooter. “”The Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp Douglas 516, located in Chicago, shared a post on their Facebook page calling the flag’s removal “…a politically convenient insult to the legacy of millions of South Carolinians”. “We can save for another day where this flag needs to go”, said Rep. Jenny Horne.
Lonnie Randolph, president of the NAACP South Carolina state conference, thanked state senators, representatives and Haley for their support. They want to say it was for states’ rights.
“But the statehouse, that’s an area that belongs to everyone”.
“What a proud moment it is, not for the state of South Carolina only, but for this republic – the United States of America – when a symbol of hatred and of division and exclusion was brought down”, said Roslyn Brock, NAACP Board of Directors.
Frankly, I think people were simply exhausted of a debate that could often get ugly; one Republican governor, David Beasley, had already lost a reelection bid when he came out against the flag and lost a large segment of his constituency. “The issue was settled, and the nation came back together to move on”. The busy street that runs in front of the Statehouse is still open, but police plan to close it before the ceremony.
In South Carolina, the first state to secede during the 1861-1865 Civil War, this week’s debate in the state legislature brought an emotional closure to a symbol long divisive in the state. Or here we said, we are taking down the flag. “Remove this flag, and do it today”.