African-Amer­i­can pro­tester re­moves Con­fed­er­ate flag from state house


A pro­tester scaled a flag­pole on the grounds of the South Carolina leg­is­la­ture at dawn Satur­day and re­moved the Con­fed­er­ate flag, of­fi­cials said, amid fierce de­bate about the racially charged sym­bol.

The black fe­male climber was ar­rested as soon as she came down from the 30 foot (nine me­ter) pole, and a new flag was re­stored to the orig­i­nal po­si­tion with an hour.

Pic­tures on so­cial media showed a woman, named as Bree New­some, 30, be­ing es­corted by an of­fi­cer, her hands be­hind her back. #FreeBree was trend­ing on Twit­ter within hours.

Also ar­rested was a 30-year-old white man named as James Ian Tyson. Both are from neigh­bor­ing North Carolina and have been charged with de­fac­ing a mon­u­ment.

“A BPS of­fi­cer was on rou­tine pa­trol and had just made rounds when he was no­ti­fied by other of­fi­cers mon­i­tor­ing the flag that a woman was climb­ing the flag­pole where the Con­fed­er­ate flag flies on the north side of the state house,” said a state­ment from South Carolina Depart­ment of Public Safety. BPS means Bureau of Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices.

“He re­turned to the flag­pole and asked the woman, who was wear­ing climb­ing gear, to get off the flag­pole.

“She re­fused to come down un­til she un­hooked the flag. The BPS of­fi­cer ar­rested her and another man who was in­side the wrought iron fence as­sist­ing her.”

Within hours of the in­ci­dent, an online crowd­fund­ing site had raised more than US$80,000 to pay for New­some’s bail and to help other ac­tivists “tak­ing di­rect ac­tion in the move­ment for Black lives.”

There has been a grow­ing clamor for the flag — branded “a re­minder of sys­temic op­pres­sion and racial sub­ju­ga­tion” by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Fri­day — to be re­moved from the grounds of the state house in Columbia.

Once flown by the rebel army of the slave-own­ing South, the con­fed­er­ate flag is seen by some as a sym­bol of re­gional her­itage. But many more view it as an ugly re­minder of racism’s cruel legacy.

Im­pas­sioned de­bate about the flag was sparked by the mass shoot­ing of nine black wor­ship­pers last week in Charleston, also in South Carolina.

The white al­leged su­prem­a­cist gun­man, Dy­lann Roof, 21, later ap­peared in dis­turb­ing photos online with the flag.

Pro-Con­fed­er­ate Protest

New­some, an ac­tivist whose full name is Brit­tany Ann Byuarim New­some, said in a state­ment: “We re­moved the flag to­day be­cause we can’t wait any longer.

“We can’t con­tinue like this another day. It’s time for a new chap­ter where we are sin­cere about dis­man­tling white supremacy and build­ing to­ward true racial jus­tice and equal­ity,” added the state­ment, car­ried in the lo­cal The Post and Courier news­pa­per.

Her protest came ahead of a small demon­stra­tion by proCon­fed­er­ate flag sup­port­ers who chanted and waved the ban­ner at the state house. Sev­eral op­po­nents re­mon­strated with them and held plac­ards de­mand­ing the flag be taken down.

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