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5 Years After Confederate Flag Removed, Groups Gather At Monument On SC State House Grounds

About 50 people from opposing groups gathered Friday morning outside the South Carolina State House, where a Confederate flag was removed from the grounds five years ago.

The event was held by a group called the State House Monument Honor Guard. Four people showed up to construct a tent and play music, including the Confederate version of the song “Battle Cry of Freedom."

Two men in Civil War-era uniforms took turns standing guard with the South Carolina state flag in front of the Monument to the Confederate Dead. More than 40 counter protesters stood on the other side of two rows of temporary fencing holding signs. 

Tom Clements held a sign that reads “Victory -- it’s down!”, which he’s had since the Confederate flag came down in 2015. The back of his sign lists information about his family history, which includes Confederate soldiers. He calls it his “racist heritage" and a symbol of white supremacy. Clements said he’s protested this site since 2008, and that those guarding the monument don’t understand history.

Tom Clements. SC Statehouse 7/7/20
Credit Michael Falero / WFAE
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WFAE
Tom Clements, explaining his years of protests of the Confederate Flag at the South Carolina State House grounds, which was removed five years ago.

"A lot of these what I call neo-Confederates coming down here, to protect the flag, they had not even read the Declaration to withdraw from the United States," Clements said. "And they would not acknowledge it was about slavery. But, there are so few people down here now, the tide has turned. And we’re only moving forward and taking down more flags and monuments, I think."

Every so often, counter protestors shouted insults at the pro-monument group, but most of the time their backs were turned as they pointed their signs at traffic. Many of the signs resembled those at Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd. Jarae Anderson had at least half a dozen signs with her. She lives in Columbia and said she’s protested for 39 days straight. She said protesters are out fighting for restitution for Black and indigenous people, and she wanted this group to understand the message they’re sending is harmful.

Jarae Anderson, counter-protesting a pro-Confederate monument group at the South Carolina State House grounds, July 10, 2020.
Credit Michael Falero / WFAE
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WFAE
Jarae Anderson, counter-protesting a pro-Confederate monument group at the South Carolina State House grounds, July 10, 2020.

“I would say, ‘open up your heart, open up your mind, can’t you see that this is hurting someone else, and it should be hurting you too.’" Anderson said.

After laying a wreath at the monument and standing guard for a couple of hours, the group packed up their things and were escorted off the State House grounds by police. They did not engage with the protestors.

On Saturday, the group Flags Across the South will fly a Confederate flag on the grounds from a temporary flagpole.

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