COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Confederate flag was temporarily removed from the front of the South Carolina Statehouse on Saturday when a woman climbed the flagpole and — despite calls by police to get down — removed the banner.
Bree Newsome, 30, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was about halfway up the more than 30-foot steel flagpole just after dawn Saturday when officers of the South Carolina Bureau of Protective Services told her to get down. Instead, she continued climbing to the top and removed the banner.
She and a man who had climbed over a four-foot wrought-iron fence to get to the flag were arrested.
The flag, which is protected by state law, was raised about 45 minutes later. Flag supporters planned a rally at the monument later on Saturday.
Sherri Iacobelli, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, said that Newsome and James Ian Tyson, 30, also of Charlotte, have been charged with defacing monuments on state Capitol grounds. That’s a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison term of up to three years or both.
A staff member at the Alvin Glenn Detention Center where the two were taken said she did not know if the two had attorneys. About the time of her arrest, Newsome released an email statement to the media.
“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day,” it said. “It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”
Authorities said Newsome was from Raleigh. However, Mervyn Marcano, a spokesman for the small group of activists who worked together to take down the flag, said she had recently moved to Charlotte.
Tamika Lewis, another member of the group, said taking down the flag “was done because we were tired of waiting for the judicial system to make the decision they have been prolonging for a very long time.”
Calls for removing the flag have been renewed since nine black churchgoers were killed in what police characterized as a racist attack at a Charleston, South Carolina church last week.
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 Gov. Nikki Haley reversed course and called for the divisive symbol to come down. The flag has flown in front of the state Capitol for 15 years after being moved from atop the Statehouse dome.
The momentum in South Carolina sparked further calls from politicians across the state and country for flags and Confederate symbols to be removed from public displays in other states.