An activist in South Carolina climbed a flagpole in Columbia early on Saturday morning and removed the Confederate flag flying in front of the capitol building. The woman’s action came a day after President Barack Obama gave the eulogy for a black pastor who was murdered by an apparent white supremacist along with eight other people in a Charleston church last week.
A woman identified by a protest organizer as Bree Newsome, a 30-year-old youth organizer from Charlotte, North Carolina, climbed the flagpole before 6am and took down the controversial emblem of the antebellum, slaveholding south, with the assistance of another activist. Newsome was halfway up the 30ft pole when police demanded that she climb back down, but she continued upward and removed the flag.
Activist Mervyn Marcano told the Guardian that when Newsome returned to the ground she and James Ian Dyson were arrested by capitol police and taken to a detention center.
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Sherri Iacobelli, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, told the Associated Press Newsome and Tyson, 30, also of Charlotte, had been charged with defacing monuments on state capitol grounds, a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison term of up to three years, or both.
“The flag represents white supremacy,” said 25-year-old Tamika Lewis, another activist from Charlotte. “The image alone is used to ignite fear and intimidation, especially among people of color and minorities.
“Taking it down is a long time coming.”
Lewis noted that the flag was raised above the capitol in 1961, after African American students marched through the city – and after more than 180 of them were arrested. She said the fact of a rally to support the flag shows “there’s nothing being hidden” about the persistence of racism in America more than half a century later.
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