Phillip Howell can remember when the South Carolina NAACP rallied to have two Confederate flags removed from inside House and Senate Chambers more than 15 years ago.
A brief ceremony was held Friday at 10 a.m. EDT, during which the flag was lowered from a pole near a Confederate soldier monument and placed in a nearby state museum, according to the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper.
The 21-year-old white man charged in the massacre, Dylann Roof, appeared in photographs posing with a Confederate flag that surfaced on a website bearing a racist manifesto.
South Carolina’s leaders first flew the rebel battle flag over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, when the pro-slavery South seceded and fought the northern Union.
The flag has been flown on the statehouse grounds for the past 54 years.
Outside the Capitol, people who supported taking down the flag vastly outnumbered those who were upset about its removal.
NAACP President Cornell William Brooks said the removal of the flag shows the commitment by the state to honoring those killed in Charleston the attack.
“I think this is a hopeful day for South Carolina“.
Authorities say they believe the killings were racially motivated. The swift decision to remove the flag comes five decades after it was raised to commemorate the American Civil War’s centennial and remained at the Statehouse to protest the civil rights movement.
“People say he was wrapped in hate, that he was a hateful person”, said Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg. Keep reading to see the emotional reactions to the Confederate flag’s removal from South Carolina’s Capitol building.
“I love this”, said Hammie Johnson.
Meanwhile, as South Carolina prepared to lower the flag, debate reached fever pitch in Washington, where Republicans had introduced a controversial amendment, due for a vote Thursday, to preserve the right to place the flag on graves on federal property.
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.
“But the statehouse – that’s an area that belongs to everyone”, she added.
“What a proud moment it is, not for the state of South Carolina only, but for this republic – the United States of America – when a symbol of hatred and of division and exclusion was brought down”, said Roslyn Brock, NAACP Board of Directors.
Who took it, and exactly when they took it, is unknown.
A congresswoman called on Mayor Eric Garcetti and a city councilman Friday to stop allowing the sale of Confederate flag souvenirs at the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington.