After 54 years, Confederate flag removed from Statehouse

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South Carolina Takes Down Confederate Flag


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse on Friday, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely.

The turnabout seemed unthinkable before the June 17 massacre of nine black parishioners — including a state senator — at a Charleston church during a Bible study. Dylann Roof, a white man who was photographed with the Confederate flag, is charged in the shooting deaths, and authorities have called the killings a hate crime.

The massacre reignited calls to remove Confederate flags and symbols across the South and around the nation.

The crowd of thousands chanted "USA" and "hey, hey, hey, goodbye" as the flag was lowered by an honor guard of South Carolina troopers. Gov. Nikki Haley stood on the Statehouse steps and did not speak, though she nodded in the direction of the crowd after someone shouted: "Thank you governor."

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After 54 years, Confederate flag removed from Statehouse
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia, S.C., Friday, July 10, 2015, ending its 54-year presence there. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
People cheer as an honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to the cheers of thousands on Friday, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol lowers the Confederate battle flag as it is removed from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to the cheers of thousands on Friday, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An honor guard member from the South Carolina Highway Patrol hands the Confederate battle flag that flew in front of the Statehouse to the curator of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum after it was taken down Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley hugs Rev. Norvel Goff, interim pastor at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, before an honor guard from the South Carolina Highway Patrol removed the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds, Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A crowd cheers after the Confederate 'Stars and Bars' flag was lowered from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Republican Governor Nikki Haley presided over the event after signing historic legislation to remove the flag the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A woman waves a sign as she waits for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from in front of the South Carolina Statehouse, Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill into law Thursday requiring the flag to be removed. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A girl watches from a crowd to see the Confederate 'Stars and Bars' flag lowered from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Republican Governor Nikki Haley presided over the event after signing historic legislation to remove the flag the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A crowd celebrates after a South Carolina honor guard lowers the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Republican Governor Nikki Haley presided over the event after signing the historic legislation to remove the flag the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia, S.C., Friday, July 10, 2015, ending its 54-year presence there. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A crowd cheers as a South Carolina honor guard lowers the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Republican Governor Nikki Haley presided over the event after signing the historic legislation to remove the flag the day before. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An honor guard from the South Carolina Highway patrol removes the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds Friday, July 10, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to the cheers of thousands on Friday, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9: The Confederate battle flag flies on its last full day at the South Carolina state house July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill removing the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds on Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 09: Confederate flag supporters stand outside the as 'Stars and Bars' flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse on its last evening on July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds Friday morning. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 09: People hold the American flag as the Confederate 'Stars and Bars' flies in front of the South Carolina statehouse on its last evening on July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds Friday morning. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9: Supporters celebrate after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signs a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate on the flag was reignited three weeks ago after the mass murder at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill into law as former South Carolina governors and officials look on Thursday, July 9, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. The law enables the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds more than 50 years after the rebel banner was raised to protest the civil rights movement. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9: State Reps. John King (L) and Cezar McKnight celebrate after the House approved a senate bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Lawmakers debated for more than 13 hours before approving the bill early Thursday morning. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signs a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate on the flag was reignited three weeks ago after the mass murder at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Roger Rees attends the opening night of 'The Real Thing' on Broadway at American Airlines Theatre on October 30, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
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Two troopers rolled the flag and tied it up with a string and handed it to a black trooper who brought it to the Statehouse steps and handed it to a state archivist. The governor clapped when it was handed to the archivist.

A van was to take the flag to the nearby Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. There, it eventually will be housed in a multimillion-dollar shrine lawmakers promised to build as part of a deal to get a bill passed removing the flag.

The flag was raised over the South Carolina Capitol dome in 1961 to protest integration. It was moved in 2000 to the 30-foot flagpole in front of the Statehouse. Many thought it would stay there.

Now, even that flagpole will be torn down, but no timetable is set on that.

People who supported removing the flag chanted "take it down" before the ceremony and vastly outnumbered those who were upset about the move.

"It feels so good to be out here and be happy about it," said Ronald D. Barton, 52, a pastor who also was at the ceremony in 2000.

Haley did not answer questions about the upcoming ceremony, but earlier Friday on NBC's "Today" show, she said: "No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel pain. No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel like they don't belong."

South Carolina's leaders first flew the battle flag over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. It remained there to represent official opposition to the civil rights movement.

Decades later, mass protests against the flag by those who said it was a symbol of racism and white supremacy led to a compromise in 2000 with lawmakers who insisted that it symbolized Southern heritage and states' rights. The two sides came to an agreement to move the flag from the dome to a 30-foot pole next to a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse.

The flag came down 23 days after the massacre of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight others inside Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Haley signed the bill with 13 pens. Nine of them went to the families of the victims.

Authorities say they believe the killings were racially motivated. By posing with the Confederate flag before the shootings, Roof, who has not yet entered a plea to nine counts of murder, convinced some that the flag's reputation for white supremacy and racial oppression had trumped its symbolism of Southern heritage and ancestral pride.

On Friday, artist Ernest Lee came to the Statehouse with a framed portrait of all nine victims. He said he's been invited to the Charleston church on Sunday to present his artwork. He said he wished more people would turn to art for inspiration.

"If they did, there wouldn't be so much hate and violence," he said.

For more on the story, watch below:

Confederate Flag Comes Down From SC Statehouse Grounds
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