His­toric ges­ture

Con­fed­er­ate flag re­moved en­tirely from South Carolina State­house

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

For the first time since the civil rights move­ment, the Con­fed­er­ate flag was re­moved en­tirely from the South Carolina State­house, in a swift cer­e­mony Fri­day be­fore thou­sands of peo­ple who cheered as the Civil War-era ban­ner was low­ered from a 30foot flag­pole.

Many peo­ple be­lieved the flag would fly in­def­i­nitely in this state, which was the first to leave Union, but the killing of nine black church mem­bers dur­ing a Bi­ble study in Charleston last month changed that sen­ti­ment and reignited calls to bring down Con­fed­er­ate flags and sym­bols across the na­tion.

Dy­lann Roof, a white man who was pho­tographed with the Con­fed­er­ate flag, is charged in the shoot­ing deaths, and author­i­ties have called the killings a hate crime.

The crowd, es­ti­mated at up to 10,000 peo­ple, chanted “USA, USA’’ and “hey, hey, hey, good­bye’’ as an hon­our guard of South Carolina troop­ers low­ered the flag dur­ing a 6minute cer­e­mony. Gov. Nikki Ha­ley stood on the State­house steps along with fam­ily mem­bers of the vic­tims and other dig­ni­taries. While she didn’t speak, she nod­ded and smiled in the di­rec­tion of the crowd af­ter some­one shouted: “Thank you gover­nor.’’

Ha­ley sup­ported the flag be­fore the shoot­ing, but the Repub­li­can had a change of heart in the days af­ter the killings and led the push to get leg­is­la­tors to pass a bill be­fore the end of the sum­mer. She signed the leg­is­la­tion Thurs­day.

As she looked on, two white troop­ers rolled up the flag neatly and tied it with a white rib­bon. They handed it to a black trooper who brought it to the State­house steps.

High­way Pa­trol Cpl. Ru­pert Pope down­played the sig­nif­i­cance of their race in the cer­e­mony.

“We’re all grey,’’ he said, with the other of­fi­cers nod­ding in agree­ment.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama tweeted min­utes af­ter the flag was down, say­ing it was “a sign of good will and heal­ing and a mean­ing­ful step to­wards a bet­ter fu­ture.’’ Obama de­liv­ered a eu­logy at the fu­neral for state Sen. Cle­menta Pinck­ney, who was also pas­tor of the church where the killings took place.

The hon­our guard was the same group of men who car­ried Pinck­ney’s cof­fin into the State­house for a view­ing last month.

Denise Quar­les’ mother, Myra Thompson, re­ceived her li­cense to preach just hours be­fore the June 17 shoot­ing at Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in Charleston.

An honor guard from the South Carolina High­way pa­trol low­ers the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag as it is re­moved from the Capi­tol grounds Fri­day.

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