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Politics

Confederate Flag Comes Down

The Confederate flag no longer flies on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. A state Highway Patrol honor guard lowered the flag Friday morning in a ceremony that drew a large crowd and political leaders, but no speeches.

Gov. Nikki Haley had promised the flag would be taken down “with dignity,” but up until it actually happened Friday morning it wasn’t clear what that would entail.    

Shortly after 10 a.m., seven members of the honor guard silently marched up in front of the steps of the state capitol and up to the flag pole. They quickly lowered the flag, furled it, and handed it to the director of the Confederate Room and Military Museum, where the flag will be housed. It was a solemn occasion and over in a couple minutes.

Many people in the crowd stood there, surprised that it happened so quickly and quietly. Once the flag was taken down, people started chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A.”  Many gathered there saw it as a victory more than 50 years in the making. 

About a dozen people carried Confederate flags. There was some bickering between people with very different views of the flag, but no elevated confrontations.  Afterward, one man carrying a sign reading “thank you” and another carrying a full-size Confederate flag, looked at each other, nodded, and walked away. 

The Confederate flag first flew over the statehouse in 1961. In 2000, the flag was moved to a Confederate memorial in front of the capitol after state lawmakers struck a compromise.    

Haley called for the flag's removal after the June 17 massacre of nine African Americans at a church in Charleston. Law enforcement officials believe the killings were racially motivated. A white man who embraced the flag as a symbol of white supremacy is charged with the murders. The shootings reignited calls to remove Confederate symbols across the country. 

Haley signed into law a bill to remove the flag on Thursday.