Confederate flag lowered from SC Statehouse after 54-year presence

An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate flag Friday, July 10, 2015. The Confederate battle flag was removed from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds a day after Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill requiring the flag to be removed.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse on Friday, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely.

The turnabout seemed unthinkable before the June 17 massacre of nine black parishioners – including a state senator – at a Charleston church during a Bible study. 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 massacre reignited calls to remove Confederate flags and symbols across the South and around the nation.

The crowd of thousands chanted “USA” and “hey, hey, hey, goodbye” as the flag was lowered by an honor guard of South Carolina troopers. Gov. Nikki Haley stood on the Statehouse steps and did not speak, though she nodded in the direction of the crowd after someone shouted: “Thank you governor.”

Two troopers rolled the flag and tied it up with a string and handed it to a black trooper who brought it to the Statehouse steps and handed it to a state archivist. The governor clapped when it was handed to the archivist.

PHOTOS: Confederate flag comes down in SC

A van was to take the flag to the nearby Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. There, it eventually will be housed in a multimillion-dollar shrine lawmakers promised to build as part of a deal to get a bill passed removing the flag.

The flag was raised over the South Carolina Capitol dome in 1961 to protest integration. It was moved in 2000 to the 30-foot flagpole in front of the Statehouse. Many thought it would stay there.

Now, even that flagpole will be torn down, but no timetable is set on that.

Confederate flag coming downPeople who supported removing the flag chanted “take it down” before the ceremony and vastly outnumbered those who were upset about the move.

“It feels so good to be out here and be happy about it,” said Ronald D. Barton, 52, a pastor who also was at the ceremony in 2000.

Haley did not answer questions about the upcoming ceremony, but earlier Friday on NBC’s “Today” show, she said: “No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel pain. No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel like they don’t belong.”

South Carolina’s leaders first flew the battle flag over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. It remained there to represent official opposition to the civil rights movement.

Decades later, mass protests against the flag by those who said it was a symbol of racism and white supremacy led to a compromise in 2000 with lawmakers who insisted that it symbolized Southern heritage and states’ rights. The two sides came to an agreement to move the flag from the dome to a 30-foot pole next to a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse.

Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Cleveland County Courthouse in Shelby, N.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. Roof is a suspect in the shooting of several people Wednesday night at the historic The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Cleveland County Courthouse in Shelby, N.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. Roof is a suspect in the shooting of several people Wednesday night at the historic The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The flag came down 23 days after the massacre of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight others inside Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Haley signed the bill with 13 pens. Nine of them went to the families of the victims.

Authorities say they believe the killings were racially motivated. By posing with the Confederate flag before the shootings, Roof, who has not yet entered a plea to nine counts of murder, convinced some that the flag’s reputation for white supremacy and racial oppression had trumped its symbolism of Southern heritage and ancestral pride.

On Friday, artist Ernest Lee came to the Statehouse with a framed portrait of all nine victims. He said he’s been invited to the Charleston church on Sunday to present his artwork. He said he wished more people would turn to art for inspiration.

“If they did, there wouldn’t be so much hate and violence,” he said.


Below is a recap of the ceremony: 

10:09 a.m.

The Confederate flag has been removed from a flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse, where it has had a presence for 54 years.

The rebel banner was taken down Friday morning by a Highway Patrol honor guard in a ceremony attended by thousands who cheered at the removal, many yelling “USA, USA” and “Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!”

A van will take the flag to a nearby museum, where it will be housed.

The reversal seemed unthinkable just a month ago. It comes after the June 17 massacre of nine black parishioners at a Charleston church. A white man is charged, and authorities say the killings were racially motivated. The shootings reignited calls to remove Confederate symbols across the country.

The Confederate flag was raised over the Capitol dome in 1961 to protest integration. It was moved in 2000 to a flagpole in front of the Statehouse.

The flagpole, too, will be torn down, but no timetable is set.

___

10:07 a.m.

A ceremony has begun to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse, where it has flown for 54 years.

The rebel banner will be taken down Friday morning by a state Highway Patrol honor guard. Thousands of people gathered at the Statehouse, many cheering and some chanting “take it down.”

After the flag is removed, a van will take it to a nearby museum, where it will be housed.

The ceremony and flag removal come after the June 17 massacre of nine black parishioners at a Charleston church. A white man is charged, and authorities say the killings were racially motivated. The shootings reignited calls to remove Confederate symbols nationwide.

The Confederate flag was raised over the Capitol dome in 1961 to protest integration. It was moved in 2000 to a flagpole in front of the Statehouse.

___

9:55 a.m.

Capture 5An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway Patrol has arrived on the grounds of the Statehouse and the officers are standing stoically as they wait to take down the Confederate flag.

The group is standing near the flag with their hands behind their backs. They are wearing white gloves.

The honor guard will bring the flag down during a ceremony at 10 a.m.

The flag has flown either on the Statehouse dome or grounds since the civil rights moment. It is being brought down after nine black church members were killed during a shooting last month.

___

9:35 a.m.

The leader of the South Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans says he is not at the ceremony to take down the rebel flag because he honors the memories of his seven ancestors who fought for the South in the Civil War.

Leland Summers said by phone Friday ahead of the ceremony that: “I’m not going down there to watch them be dishonored and defamed.”

He says his organization was not asked to participate in the Statehouse ceremony, unlike in 2000 when the flag was moved from the Capitol dome to a monument in front of the building.

Summers says that at some point today, he will pause, reflect on his Southern relatives and pray for the future of the country.

At the Statehouse on Friday morning, flag supporters were vastly outnumbered, but some were present. Cindy Lampley clutched a poster showing photos of ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Lampley says she is a historical re-enactor who fears that removing symbols such as the flag dishonors her relatives who fought for the Southern cause.

___

9:10 a.m.

FILE - In a Monday, June 22, 2015 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, center, is applauded during a news conference in the South Carolina State House, in Columbia, S.C. Haley said that the Confederate flag should come down from the grounds of the state capitol, reversing her position on the divisive symbol amid growing calls for it to be removed. (Tim Dominick/The State via AP, File)
FILE – In a Monday, June 22, 2015 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, center, is applauded during a news conference in the South Carolina State House, in Columbia, S.C. Haley said that the Confederate flag should come down from the grounds of the state capitol, reversing her position on the divisive symbol amid growing calls for it to be removed. (Tim Dominick/The State via AP, File)

An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway Patrol will take down the Confederate flag that has flown on the grounds of the Statehouse for more than 50 years.

The flag will be taken down Friday during at 10 a.m. ceremony.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill Thursday calling for the flag’s removal from the Statehouse grounds.

Opposition to the Confederate flag gained momentum after the killings of nine people, including a state senator, at a historic black church in Charleston.

Authorities say they believe the killings were racially motivated and the suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, was seen in photos posing with the Confederate flag as a symbol of hatred.

___

8:20 a.m.

About two hours before the Confederate flag was set to be removed Friday from the South Carolina Statehouse, Gov. Nikki Haley walked out on the Capitol steps to take a look at the scene and to talk to officers providing security.

The governor spent just over five minutes looking over the crowd, which quickly turned and began taking pictures.

Afterward, she and her staff headed back to her first-floor office.

Haley signed the bill Thursday calling for the flag’s removal from the Statehouse grounds.

Opposition to the Confederate flag gained momentum after the killings of nine people, including a state senator, at a historic black church in Charleston.

Authorities say they believe the killings were racially motivated and the suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, was seen in photos posing with the Confederate flag as a symbol of hatred.

___

8:15 a.m.

Members of the news media far outnumber spectators outside the South Carolina Statehouse on Friday morning as officials prepare to take down a Confederate flag that has flown there for more than 50 years.

About 50 people have gathered and the crowed is about equally divided between blacks and whites. Some people are carrying Confederate flags, but more are carrying signs saying the flag should come down.

The 10 a.m. ceremony to take down the flag comes weeks after nine people were killed in a shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

____

7:40 a.m.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says she’s proud of how her state responded to the shooting deaths of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston last month, a shooting that led to Friday’s removal of the Confederate flag flying in front of the Statehouse.

Haley told NBC’s “Today” show Friday morning that she’ll be thinking of the shooting victims as the flag is removed at a 10 a.m. ceremony.

Haley said South Carolinians honor tradition and history but the Confederate flag belongs in a museum where people can honor it appropriately.

Haley said: “No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel pain. No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel like they don’t belong.”

___

7:10 a.m.

Police have roped off the Confederate flag and the area immediately behind it stretching back to the South Carolina Statehouse, where the flag is to be removed in a 10 a.m. ceremony that’s expected to be brief.

Barricades have been put up on either side of the flag where people can gather to watch the ceremony. The busy street that runs in front of the Statehouse is still open, but police plan to close it before the ceremony.

Reporters and videographers outnumbered the crowd. A number of law enforcement officers were scattered about the grounds and nearby streets.

Columbia City Council on Thursday night approved a temporary ordinance banning weapons from nearby streets around the Statehouse for the next 30 days.

The Ku Klux Klan has said it will meet at the Statehouse later this month.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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