It is the end of an era in South Carolina. The Confederate battle flag has been removed from the grounds of the State House in Columbia. The Confederate flag, long seen as both a symbol of racial division and a historical relic of the Deep South, has flown outside of the State House for more than 50 years.
The Friday morning event was marked by heavy security and loud cheers from those who campaigned to bring down the flag. The flag had long been a subject of deep disagreements and public protests. Two people were recently arrested for taking the flag down in violation of state law. The flag will now be housed at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, South Carolina.
The lowering of the flag comes after days of emotional debate on the issue in the State Legislature. The decision to lower the flag for good was first approved by the State Senate, then the House, and was signed by Governor Nikki R. Haley on Thursday. Gov. Haley pledged that the symbol would be lowered “with dignity.”
The conversation over the appropriateness of such a flag flying over the State House was reignited by the racially motivated shooting of nine black parishioners at a historic black church in Charleston. The shooter, Dylan Roof, appeared in numerous social media pictures with the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of racial animus. The tragedy at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17 forced many people to take another look at the flag and what it represents to black and white residents of the state.
The flag was originally flown above the State House starting in the early 1960s at the height of anti-integration sentiment in the white South. It was moved next to the Confederate Soldier Monument in 2000. Both Democrats and Republicans in South Carolina have shielded the flag at the State House, even signing into law a provision that it could not be removed from the State House grounds. The flag was padlocked into place to prevent its removal.