The Confederate flag was removed from the front of the South Carolina Statehouse on Saturday… then put back up by officials. Female activist Bree Newsome, 30, attempted to confiscate the emblem, which has become marginalised in the days following the massacre of nine people in a racist attack on an African-American church in Charleston last week.
Newsome shimmied halfway up the 30-foot steel flagpole after dawn on Saturday. Officers of the South Carolina Bureau of Protective Services were called to the scene, demanding she get down. Instead, she continued climbing to the top and removed the flag. She and a man who had vaulted a four-foot wrought-iron fence to get to the flag were arrested.
The banner, which is protected by state law, was raised about 45 minutes later. Flag supporters planned a rally at the monument on Saturday.
Sherri Iacobelli, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, said Newsome and James Ian Tyson, 30, have been charged with defacing monuments on state Capitol grounds, and could face a fine of up to $5,000 and a three-year stretch in prison.
At time of her arrest, Newsome released an email statement to the media. It read: "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."
South Carolina lawmakers took the initial steps last Tuesday toward removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds by agreeing to allow discussion of the matter during the legislative session. The agreement came a day after Republican Governor Nikki Haley reversed course and called for the divisive symbol to come down.