Protester climbs flag pole, removes Confederate flag in S.C.
Bree Newsome of Charlotte, N.C. was arrested after she removed the Confederate battle flag in front of the State House in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday.
Columbia, S.C. — The Confederate flag has been temporarily removed from in front of the South Carolina Statehouse.
A black woman was about halfway up the more than 30-foot steel flagpole just after dawn Saturday when State Capitol police told her to come down. Instead, she continued up and removed the flag before returning to the ground.
Bree Newsome of Charlotte, N.C., and another man who had entered the wrought-iron fence surrounding the flag, were arrested.
The flag, which is protected by state law, was raised again a short time later. A rally by flag supporters was scheduled for later Saturday.
Calls for removing the flag have been renewed since nine black churchgoers were killed in what police characterized as a racist attack at a Charleston, South Carolina church last week.
With the Charleston shootings, the process of challenging symbols of the Confederacy picked up speed nearly overnight, as lawmakers, especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus, called for removing Confederate statues.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D) of Mississippi also called for his state's flag, the only one to explicitly feature the so-called "Southern Cross" battle flag, to be removed from a Capitol tunnel. On Thursday, the House voted to refer the resolution back to committee – a move often used to postpone measures indefinitely – on a near party-line vote, 240 to 184.
On Wednesday, Congressman Lewis, in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution interview, called the push to remove such symbols "the beginning of a movement that will help us move toward the realization that we're one people, we're one nation, and we have to be sensitive to our history."
Part of the reckoning on Confederate iconography is a growing acknowledgement, especially among conservatives, that long-running African-American complaints about Confederate symbols have validity, given how they can be twisted into murderous action, as the Charleston massacre showed.
Even Southern conservatives have little love for the Confederate battle flag, polls suggest. A 2011 Pew poll showed only 22 percent of whites who identify themselves as Southerners say that they "react positively" when they see a Confederate flag displayed, with a majority reporting they had only neutral (64 percent) or negative (13 percent) feelings toward it.