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Pro-Confederate Protests After Activists Arrested For Scaling South Carolina Flagpole To Remove Battle Flag

Bree Newsome and other activists carried out the stunt around dawn on Saturday. Protests were organized later in the day in Columbia, South Carolina, and Montgomery, Alabama, in support of the Confederate symbol.

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What We Know So Far

  • Dylann Roof, 21, who is charged with killing nine people at a historic black church in Charleston last week, often posed with the Confederate flag and apparently posted messages about white supremacy.*Activists scaled the flagpole outside the South Carolina Capitol Building on Saturday to remove the Confederate battle flag, which is protected by state law.
  • On Friday, several family members of the victims told Roof they forgive him during a dramatic court appearance.
  • U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has launched a hate crime investigation into the attack.
  • Lawmakers in other states have also said they want to revisit possibly removing Confederacy symbols from official properties after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the Statehouse, saying that while some people view the flag as a symbol of noble tradition, others find the flag to be an offensive symbol of a brutal past and that it "does not represent the future of our great state."

Updates

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The two activists who were arrested for taking down the Confederate flag in South Carolina Saturday later posted bond and were released.

A judge set bond at $3,000 each for Bree Newsome and James Tyson. They both paid the money Saturday and left jail, WLTX reported.

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Chirlane McCray, political figure and wife of New York City Mayor Bill Deblasio, posted a message in support of the activist who took down the Confederate flag in South Carolina Saturday morning.

After protestor Bree Newsome was arrested for her attempt to remove the flag, the hashtag #FreeBree began trending on Twitter in support of her.

Her actions represent a nation that is saying NO MORE of letting this symbol of white supremacy fly. #FreeBree

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After a protestor was arrested after climbing the flag pole in Columbia, South Carolina, Saturday to remove the Confederate flag, both pro- and anti-flag rallies began taking place around the South.

The largest rallies were in Columbia and Montgomery, Alabama, where four Confederate flags were recently removed per Alabama Gov. Robert Bently's orders.

In Columbia a pro-flag rally gathered, drawing a few dozen people and aggression from passers-by.

Crowd shouting: "Fly it proud!" #ConfederateFlag #sctweets #wis10

Some "Take It Down" supporters arrived, causing heated verbal confrontations.

"Go back to where you came from!" #sctweets #wis10 #ConfederateFlag

Law enforcement presence increased in the area, although there were no reports of physical violence.

Other than the arrest of Bree Newsome and the man assisting her, no further arrests were made in the area, South Carolina Department of Public Safety told BuzzFeed News.

Larger law enforcement presence out here now. #sctweets #wis10 #ConfederateFlag

Pro-Confederate flag protestors also gathered in front of the Capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama on Saturday morning.

Alabama Governor Robert Bently ordered the removal of four Confederate flags from the state's Capitol earlier this week in order "not to distract from state's issues," his office told BuzzFeed News.

Social media images showed hundreds of people, many of who were dressed in Civil War uniforms, gathered in front of the Capitol building to make speeches in support of the Confederate flag.

Hate group League of the South organized a pro-Confederate flag rally at the Alabama Capitol this am #KeepItDown

The rally was reportedly organized by the Sons of the Confederacy, who told local news sources that their goal was to spread a message that the flag is about Southern heritage, not racial hatred.

HAPPENING NOW: Group protests the removal of Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds: http://t.co/evPkj3pzTp

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A woman was arrested early Saturday in Columbia after scaling the flagpole outside the State Capitol and removing the Confederate battle flag.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

Activists said they decided to take "matters into their own hands" because of the delay from lawmakers in removing the flag following the deadly church shootings.

After SC refused to take down the flag in time for the funerals, activists took matters into their own hands. #keepitdown

The flag, which is protected by South Carolina law, was raised once more following Newsome's arrest.

Protest organizer Tamika Lewis told the New York Daily News that another activist, James Tyson, who spotted Newsome as she climbed the pole, was also arrested by police.

"We didn't see it fit to have the flag stand erect while the people who were massacred were laid to rest under it," Lewis told the newspaper.

Booking photos of two the people arrested for taking down flag.

In a statement, the S.C. Department of Public Safety Bureau of Protective Services told BuzzFeed News that both of those arrested were from South Carolina.

They have been charged with defacing a monument, a misdemeanor that could see them fined up to $5,000 and spend up to three years in prison.

Left-wing activist and filmmaker Michael Moore said on Twitter he would pay for Newsome's legal expenses.

Friends of @BreeNewsome - I will pay her bail money or any legal fees she has. Please let her know this. #Charleston #TakeDownTheFlag

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Police in Charleston, South Carolina, have been unable to confirm alleged threats made against the families of those who died in the shooting massacre.

According to a statement released by the city on Thursday, none of the immediate families of the nine people who were gunned down last week inside Mother Emanuel AME Church have reported receiving threats.

The Charleston Police Department also has been unable to confirm or validate the alleged threats, and none the families have reported asking for security from the New Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton Gun Club, Justice League, Black Starz or any other group, city officials said.

Earlier in the week, local black leaders rebuked Malik Shabazz — who as the leader of the the New Black Panther Party made headlines for issuing a bounty for George Zimmerman — after he and others held a rally and called for violence against white Charleston residents in the lead up to services on Friday.

"That's exactly what he wanted," Pastor Thomas Dixon said of the alleged church shooter, Dylann Roof, according to WCSC-TV. "Why would we, as logical thinking people, African Americans in particular, think that giving Dylann Roof what he wanted is the right way to do this?"

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Boyd Young, one of two public defenders for Dylann Roof, released a statement today on behalf of the Roof family.

There have been many questions asked regarding the story behind the tragic shooting that took place at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina. We know that there will continue to be questions. Rest assured, in the coming days, as more information becomes available, we will do our best to answer them.

That being said, we would like to take this time to reflect on the victims and give their families time to grieve. We feel it would be inappropriate to say anything at this time other than that we are truly sorry for their loss.

After an appropriate time, there will be an opportunity to have questions answered, but we ask that right now, care and attention and support be given to the grieving family members of the victims.
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The president of the College of Charleston issued a statement on Thursday saying he agreed with Gov. Haley's call to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds.

BREAKING: @cofcpresident Glenn McConnell issues statement on Confederate flag, supports Haley's call to remove it: http://t.co/yvpo3H3YrE

The statement from Glen McConnell is significant because McConnell was a staunch supporter of the Confederate flag when he was a state senator.

McConnell served for years in the South Carolina Senate and as the state's lieutenant governor before he became the college's president last year, the Washington Post reported.

While serving in the legislature in the 1990s, McConnell fought hard to keep the flag flying from the capitol dome. At one point, he said to remove it would be "cultural genocide," the Washington Post reported.

After it became clear in the 2000s that the flag wasn't staying on the dome, McConnell worked with other lawmakers to make sure it would at least stay on the grounds.

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People gathered Wednesday at Emanuel AME Church for bible study in the same room where, one week ago, nine people were shot dead.

People now filing out of bible study at Emanuel AME in same room where 9 people were killed last week. #chsnews

Church spokeswoman Maxine Smith told the Associated Press that workers used putty to cover bullet holes as they removed visual traces of the attack before worshippers were invited back in.

An estimated 150 people reportedly filled the church basement for the bible study, sitting in fold-out chairs that were lined inside to handle the large crowd.

Scripture focus: Isaiah 53; Matthew 22:37-39; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 3; 4 #EmanuelAME cc @HolyCitySinner

In nearby Marion Square, others gathered to pray, forming the shape of a heart.

Prayer circle right now in Marion Square

The Holy City Heart Project also included music and speakers.

A lot of people turned out for #holycityheart #chsnews #CharlestonShooting

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted Wednesday that he believes the attack meets the criteria to be considered both a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism.

Massacre in Charleston was, based on applicable law and released materials, hate crime and act of terrorism. Domestic threat is substantial

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The Justice Department is expected to bring federal hate crimes charges against Dylann Roof over the Charleston murders, according to a New York Times report published Wednesday.

Roof already faces nine charges of murder over the killings, but the Times reported that federal officials feel obliged to lay their own charges because of the horrific and racist nature of the killings.

South Carolina lacks a hate crime law, and federal investigators reportedly believe that the racial component of the murders would go unaddressed were they not to bring federal charges.

"This directly fits the hate crime statute. This is exactly what it was created for," one law enforcement official told the Times.

A law enforcement official told the newspaper that FBI agents have also concluded "with a high degree of certainty" that Roof was the author of an online manifesto which details a hatred of minorities.

BuzzFeed News has contacted the Department of Justice for comment on the report.

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The Confederate flag has been removed from the Alabama state Capitol, BuzzFeed News confirmed.

Meanwhile U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, said his state's flag should be replaced.

And U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican from Kentucky, said the statue of Jefferson Davis at the Statehouse should be removed.

Read the full story here.

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South Carolina officials are looking into whether state law allows Gov. Nikki Haley to temporarily remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse.

State laws says the flag can be replaced "at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear."

Tyler Jones, a spokesperson for the House Democrats told BuzzFeed News this could give the governor authority to take down the flag for cleaning or repairs during state Sen. Clementa Pinckney's viewing at the state house.

Jones said there is precedent for such an action. In the late 1960s, then-Gov. Robert McNair took down the flag for cleaning.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford alerted the governor's office to this code section yesterday, Jones said.

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South Carolina state Rep. William Chumley seemed to suggest Tuesday that the Charleston shooting victims could have done more to prevent their own deaths.

.@DrewGriffinCNN’s intv on #ConfederateFlag w/ SC Rep Chumley incl surprising comments on #CharlestonShooting http://t.co/40iWOHz3BS

In an interview with CNN, Chumley said the Confederate flag was the wrong issue to be talking about. Then, in a reference to the nine black people gunned down last week in a Charleston church, added: "These people sat in there and waited their turn to be shot. That's sad."

"Somebody in there, with a means of self-defense, could've stopped this and we'd had less funerals than we're having," Chumley said, later adding, "Why didn't somebody just do something?"

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A television station in Charlotte released video of Dylann Roof being arrested in Shelby:

We have dash camera video of Charleston shooting suspect #DylannRoof pursued and arrested in Shelby.

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Protesters rallied to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds on Tuesday morning. Politicians, community leaders, and Columbia residents spoke on behalf of the removal of the flag.

Charleston Senator Marlon Kimpson announced that Sen. Tom Davis, who oversees Beaufort and Jasper counties, assured him that he would vote in favor of removing the Confederate flag.

"It's time for South Carolina to get past its history," said J. Elliott Summey, president of the Charleston County Council. "History belongs in a place. It belongs in a museum, not on sovereign ground."

The protesters held a moment of silence for the nine victims killed in Charleston last week.

Photo shared by @GraceBeahm shows a crowd gathered outside the South Carolina State House:

Community members throughout the state took turns before the mic and spoke about the impact that removing the flag could have on race relations.

Charlisa Pugh told the crowd that when she moved her family to South Carolina from Alabama four years ago, she thought it was a great place to live.

"After some time, though, I realized that this is a great place to live for some," Pugh said.

She talked about educational disparities in South Carolina along racial lines, and said that her oldest son attends a school in which he is one of only 15 black students in a student body of 600.

"You may think that taking down the Confederate flag has nothing to do with that, but I say that it does."

Pugh wondered aloud if Roof's ideas about black people would have been different had he had a different education about American history, and stressed the importance of initiating that dialogue.

"This may start with the flag, but it won't end there," she said. "We must start conversations. Courageous, hard conversations."

Rev. Jeremy Rutledge, who ministers at the Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, said he had an important message for his "white brothers and sisters."

He told demonstrators about his wife, who visited a local library shortly after the Emanuel AME shooting and spoke with a librarian who said, "I'm not sure this is about race."

"My question and challenge for my white sisters and brothers is to speak out, to not let those kinds of comments pass," Rev. Rutledge said. "Challenge that privilege whenever you hear it."

The reverend also emphasized the historical grounds on which the Confederate flag is flown in South Carolina.

"This flag in this place was put here in a context," he said. "It was put here to resist civil rights, racial progress, equality of each and all, and that's why it does not belong here."

"When we take it down, that's what we mean to take down," he added.

He agreed that the Confederate flag belonged in a museum so that people could learn its historical context.

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The effort to remove symbols associated with the Confederacy are gaining steam, most notably in other Southern states.

The added momentum comes as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Monday called for the Confederate flag to be removed from state Capitol grounds, bolstering similar efforts in Texas, Maryland, and Mississippi.

Although seven Southern state flags contain symbols associated with the Confederacy, Mississippi's is by far the most obvious. The state flag, which was adopted in 1894, features the iconic Confederate battle flag in its upper left corner. In a 2001 referendum, voters overwhelmingly elected to retain the divisive symbol, which for many people, especially African-Americans, is seen as a pro-slavery emblem.

But state politicians on Monday echoed Haley in calling for the issue to be revisited.

"The [Confederate] flag has always had such an ugly past and an ugly history. None of this is new. It's just the mindset of the people in the South that's changing," Mississippi State Sen. Kenneth Wayne Jones told BuzzFeed News on Monday. "But I think the time is now to change our flag."

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn told reporters in a statement that, as a Christian, "I believe our state's flag needs to be removed."

"We need to start having conversations about changing Mississippi's flag," he said. His full statement is below:

Here is Gunn's full statement to me.

For more on the growing national movement to remove Confederate symbols, go here.

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At a news conference, Haley said that for many people in South Carolina, the Confederate flag was a symbol of their heritage, history and ancestry and was also a memorial to many.

"At the same time, for many others, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past," Haley said.

She said that Dylann Roof, the suspected shooter seen in photos carrying the flag, had a "sick, twisted view of the flag" that did not reflect the views of many in the state who "respect and revere it."

The governor, who has previously stated that the flag was not an issue, said that it will "always be a part of the soil of South Carolina" but added that it did not represent the future of the state.

She said that people were free to display the flag on their private property.

"The fact that it causes so much pain to many is enough to move it from the Capitol grounds," she said.

The Republican National Committee later echoed Haley's comments:

RNC statement on Gov. Haley's call to remove the Confederate flag.

Hilary Clinton also expressed her support.

.@nikkihaley is right 2 call for removal of a symbol of hate in SC. As I’ve said for years, taking down Confederate flag is long overdue. –H

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President Obama and Vice President Biden will attend the funeral services of Rev. Clementa Pinckney on Friday, June 26, the White House said.

From the White House statement:

On Friday, June 26th, the President and Vice President will travel to Charleston, South Carolina to attend the funeral services of Rev. Clementa Pinckney where President Obama will deliver the eulogy.
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President Obama and Vice President Biden will reportedly attend Friday's funeral of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the reverend at Mother Emmanuel church who was shot to death last week.

Post and Courier EXCLUSIVE President Barack Obama,Vice President Joe Biden attending funeral for the Clementa Pinckney in Charleston Friday

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Check out The Post and Courier's real-time updates on where every member of the state's legislature stands on the removal of the Confederate flag.

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The Sons of Confederate Veterans said it will fight any attempt to remove the Confederate flag from the State Capitol grounds, the Associated Press reported.

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In a statement on Sunday, Leland Summers, the commander of the group's South Carolina division, said, "There is absolutely no link between the Charleston massacre and the Confederate Memorial banner."

The group extended its sympathies to the victims' families, calling the shooting a "crime of hate and an act of terrorism."

Summers said that the suspect, Dylann Roof, was not a member of the group or associated with it in any way.

He said that "some other subversive organizations distort Confederate symbols in an attempt to make them stand for hatred and disillusion." He added that the group "vehemently opposes" the ideals and actions of such organizations.

"Not knowing your heritage is ignorance," Summers said.

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At a 4 p.m. ET press conference with Gov. Nikki Haley, Graham will call for the flag to be removed from the state grounds and put in a museum, CNN reported.

And the Post and Courier reports that U.S. Sen. Tim Scott will also ask the flag is taken down:

EXCLUSIVE - GOP US Sen Tim Scott is joining the chorus of officials calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the Statehouse today

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Even if the governor does come out in support of removing the flag, the power to enact legislation to remove it lies with the General Assembly.

At a press conference, community leaders and local and state officials called for lawmakers to use their current extended budget session on Tuesday to discuss the removal of the flag.

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At a press conference on Monday, Mayor Riley, along with community leaders and state and city officials, called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol.

"The time has come for the Confederate flag to move from a public position in front of the State Capitol to a place of history, Riley said. He asked for the flag to be moved to a museum where "it can stand as a piece of history."

"It's a historical flag, a piece of history, and it belongs in a history museum," added Riley.

He called on the General Assembly "to take the extra step and attend this unfinished business" during their legislative session tomorrow.

"Take away Mr. Roof's symbol, a misguided idea of racial superiority and bigotry. Take it away from and him and all like him," Riley said, adding that the move had the "overwhelming support" of South Carolina citizens.

NAACP leaders also announced a rally at the State Capitol at 11 a.m. on Tuesday calling for the removal of the flag just before the General Assembly goes into session.

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The demands for the flag to be removed from the South Carolina Capitol grounds have increased in the wake of the Charleston church shooting that left nine people dead.

Haley has scheduled a press conference for 4:00 p.m. ET in the lobby of the State House and will reportedly meet with the South Carolina speaker of the House and the Senate president to discuss her plan for the Confederate flag, according to FitsNews.

Haley has previously stated while the Confederate flag is a "sensitive issue," it should not be removed because "not a single CEO" has complained to her about it.

Haley's office did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

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South Carolina lawmakers will vote tomorrow to extend thier legislative session, setitng up a vote next week to remove the Confederate Flag from the State Capitol grounds, a local ABC News affiliate is reporting:

Looks like members of SC general assembly will vote tomorrow to extend legislation session to vote next week to #TakeDownTheFlag