Flag comes down, briefly

An ac­tivist takes the dis­puted Con­fed­er­ate ban­ner at the South Carolina State­house into her own hands.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Jenny Jarvie and Katie Shep­herd katie.shep­herd@latimes.com Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Jarvie re­ported from Columbia and Times staff writer Shep­herd from Los An­ge­les.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A young black woman scaled a flag­pole in front of the South Carolina State­house just af­ter dawn Satur­day and took down the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag that has be­come the fo­cus of con­tro­versy since a gun­man killed nine African Amer­i­cans in­side a his­toric Charleston church.

The woman, whom author­i­ties iden­ti­fied as Brit­tany Ann New­some, re­fused to de­scend un­til she had un­hooked the flag.

“Ma’am, come down off the pole,” a po­lice of­fi­cer called when New­some, who was wear­ing a hel­met and climb­ing gear, was mid­way up the 30-foot flag­pole.

“You come against me with ha­tred and op­pres­sion and bias,” she cried af­ter she reached the top and un­hooked the f lag. “I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down to­day.”

“I’m pre­pared to be ar­rested,” she told po­lice as she neared the ground. A group of observers cheered.

She was hand­cuffed along with James Ian Tyson, 30, who al­legedly ac­com­pa­nied her in­side a pro­hib­ited area.

New­some and Tyson were charged with de­fac­ing a mon­u­ment, a mis­de­meanor, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the South Carolina Depart­ment of Public Safety. They were taken to the Alvin S. Green De­ten­tion Cen­ter. If con­victed, they could face fines of up to $5,000 and up to three years in prison.

Both were freed a few hours later af­ter post­ing $300 bond.

The flag’s po­si­tion is pro­tected un­der state law, which leg­is­la­tors have agreed to re­visit this sum- mer. Of­fi­cials put the f lag back on the pole soon af­ter New­some brought it down.

New­some, who goes by the nick­name “Bree” and is from North Carolina, is iden­ti­fied on her Face­book page as a western or­ga­nizer with Ig­nite NC, a non­profit group chal­leng­ing vot­ing laws that it con­tends sup­press vot­ing and are dis­crim­i­na­tory.

In a state­ment to the TV and ra­dio news pro­gram “Democ­racy Now,” New­some said she had de­cided with a group of “con­cerned cit­i­zens” to “do what the S.C. Leg­is­la­ture has thus far ne­glected to do.”

The so­cial media re­sponse to New­some’s ar­rest was swift and force­ful.

Film­maker Michael Moore of­fered to come to her aid. “I will pay her bail money or any le­gal fees she has. Please let her know this,” he said on Twit­ter, which lighted up with calls for po­lice to re­lease New­some un­der the hash­tag #FreeBree.

Sup­port­ers started an In­diegogo page to raise money to pay New­some’s bail and hire a de­fense lawyer. Within nine hours, it had raised nearly $80,000.

The North Carolina chap­ter of the NAACP lauded New­some’s protest as “an act of prayer­ful non­vi­o­lent civil dis­obe­di­ence.”

In a state­ment, Dr. Wil­liam J. Bar­ber II, the North Carolina NAACP pres­i­dent, likened her to Rosa Parks and urged that the Con­fed­er­ate flag be re­moved from state prop­erty.

The f lag ’s pres­ence on the grounds of the State­house has been a sub­ject of im­pas­sioned de­bate since the shoot­ing at­tack at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, al­legedly at the hands of a white gun­man who posed for photos with the Con­fed­er­ate flag.

Sup­port­ers de­fend the flag as a sym­bol of South­ern history and cul­ture. Crit­ics de­cry it as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of racism and a re­minder of slav­ery.

“The group took down the sym­bol of white supremacy that inspired the mas­sacre, con­tin­ued to f ly at full mast in de­fi­ance of South Carolina’s grief, and f lew in de­fi­ance of ev­ery­one work­ing to ac­tu­al­ize a more eq­ui­table Carolinian fu­ture,” New­some said in her state­ment.

Later Satur­day, scuff les broke out as scores of protesters de­scended on the State­house to ap­plaud and protest New­some’s feat.

“I’m stand­ing for Bree,” said Bonita Jones, 28, a black ac­tivist from Columbia, as she stood be­low the flag at the mon­u­ment. “I’m stand­ing for all the peo­ple who died in Charleston. I’m stand­ing for all the peo­ple who can’t look af­ter them­selves.”

Frank Looper, 50, a white truck driver from Pick­ens County, drove 2 1/2 hours to the State­house to de­fend the f lag af­ter watch­ing the news on CNN. He said he wanted to pro­tect the legacy of his great-great-grand­fa­ther, who fought in the 3rd South Carolina In­fantry Reg­i­ment, and another an­ces­tor who rode in bat­tle with Gen. Wade Hamp­ton in the 2nd Reg­i­ment.

“We use the flag to honor our an­ces­tors who died,” he said. “The way it was re­moved up­set me. I don’t hate blacks. I’m not racist. Those poor peo­ple who died in Charleston, that’s ter­ri­ble. … But then pol­i­tics tried to make out that the flag pulled the trig­ger. It was a sick in­di­vid­ual.”

Pass­ing cars honked as protesters waved signs say­ing, “Take it down” and “Evil pre­vails when good peo­ple do noth­ing!”

A row of pickup trucks and SUVs cir­cled the block, f ly­ing Con­fed­er­ate f lags on their trailer hitches.

Pho­tog raphs by Bruce Smith As­so­ci­ated Press

BRIT­TANY NEW­SOME’S ac­tion fur­ther gal­va­nized both sides of the Con­fed­er­ate f lag de­bate. She was freed on $300 bail, and the f lag was put back up.

NEW­SOME wore a hel­met and climb­ing gear. “I’m pre­pared to be ar­rested,” she told po­lice of­fi­cers.

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