S.C. removes Confederate flag – Philly.com

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina pulled the Confederate flag from its place of honor at the Statehouse on Friday, marking a milestone in how America commemorates the war that tore the United States apart 150 years ago.

Many people believed the rebel banner would fly forever in the first state to leave the Union, despite bitter feelings that remained after the flag was demoted from atop the Capitol dome to a Confederate monument out front 15 years ago.

But the killings of nine black church members during a Bible study in Charleston last month suddenly changed the political truths and consequences surrounding Civil War symbols. The white man charged in the deaths had been photographed with the flag.

The battle flag unfurled to assert white power and protest the civil rights movement in the 1960s had been defended by white Republican leaders until last month as a symbol of Southern pride. After the church attack, even supporters felt compelled to acknowledge that the flag also represents racial hatred.

“No lie can live forever. That flag is a lie,” South Carolina NAACP president Lonnie Randolph said.

The flag came down Friday without incident, in a six-minute ceremony, amid a crowd of up to 10,000 people chanting “USA, USA,” and “hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”

A multiracial honor guard of South Carolina troopers wearing dress-gray uniforms and white gloves carefully folded and rolled it up. The flag was then taken to the state’s Confederate Relic Room to be put in a new multimillion-dollar display. Later Friday, the 30-foot pole it flew on was yanked out after several mighty tugs from a crane.

Gov. Nikki Haley felt compelled by last month’s killings to call for bringing down the flag, only months after calling her Democratic opponent’s demand to do the same thing a “stunt.” Other leading Republicans swiftly reversed their positions as well, and Thursday’s final votes in South Carolina’s Republican-led legislature were overwhelmingly in favor of removal.

As the flag came down, Haley joined family members of the victims and other dignitaries on the steps of the Statehouse, and while she didn’t speak, she nodded and smiled after someone in the crowd shouted: “Thank you governor.”

President Obama tweeted minutes later, calling it “a sign of good will and healing and a meaningful step towards a better future.”

The leader of the South Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans refused to attend, instead recalling his seven ancestors who fought for the South in the Civil War. “I’m not going down there to watch them be dishonored and defamed,” Leland Summers said.

Two white troopers neatly tied the rolled-up flag with a white ribbon, then handed it to a black trooper who marched it away. But Highway Patrol Cpl. Rupert Pope downplayed the significance of their race. “We’re all gray,” Pope said.

The same seven-man honor guard had carried State Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s coffin into the Statehouse for a viewing last month. Pinckney also led Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, where he and eight others were gunned down during Bible study.


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