Monday, 29 June 2015 00:00

'This flag comes down today': Black activist arrested for scaling flagpole and removing Confederate flag from South Carolina's Capitol - but state workers raise it again

Written by Evan Bleier For and Associated Press and Reuters

Early on Saturday morning a black activist took matters into her own hands by scaling the flagpole at South Carolina's Capitol in Columbia and taking down the Confederate flag by herself.  

The woman, Bree Newsome, 30, was about halfway up the more than 30-foot steel flagpole in front of the Statehouse just after dawn Saturday when State Capitol police told her to come down. Instead, she continued up and removed the flag before returning to the ground.

While she was clinging to the pole with the flag in hand, Newsome shouted: 'You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. 

'I come against you in the name of God. 

'This flag comes down today.' 

As she calmly descended the pole and lowered the flag into the waiting arms of police, Newsome said 'the Lord is my light and my salvation' and announced she was prepared to be arrested.

Newsome, who was decked out in climbing gear and wore a helmet during her courageous climb, and a man, James Tyson, who entered the wrought-iron fence surrounding the flag were arrested.

The pair's full names are Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome and James Ian Tyson. 

They were charged with defacing a monument and taken to Richland County Jail, WLTX reported. 

The misdemeanor crime is punishable by a fine or a maximum jail sentence of three years.

Tyson, also 30, is a political activist who has campaigned to save the rain forest and was part of the Occupy movement in Charlotte. 

He was also on the government's terrorist watch list in 2007, according to CNN

Onlookers who shot video of the climb applauded Newsome's efforts as she was being cuffed.   

The flag, which is protected by South Carolina law, was raised again after about an hour by state worker.

Some were upset the flag, which was not damaged during the incident, was raised by a black man.

Newsome calls herself a 'filmmaker, singer, songwriter and freedom fighter' on Twitter. 

She graduated from New York University, has worked as an activist and youth organizer in North Carolina and was arrested during a sit-in at that state's Capitol during a voting rights protest.

We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continue to fly above their caskets 
Ferguson Action  

An online petition has already been started to demand the charges be dropped. 

Money is also being raised for Newsome and Tyson's bail and any extra money that is raised will go to relief efforts in Charleston. 

In a statement on the petition website, she said: 'It's time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.'

A rally by flag supporters was scheduled for Saturday at 11am.

A group that was tweeting photos and video of the incident, Ferguson Action, said that South Carolina 'sided with hate' by ordering the flag be put back up 'in time for the white supremacist rally'. 

Calls for removing the flag have been renewed since nine black churchgoers were killed in a racist attack at a Charleston church last week.

Dylann Roof, 21, is facing murder charges for the race killings.

Across the country, African Americans are applauding a fast-growing movement to remove the Confederate flag from public life after last week's racially charged massacre. 

But even many of those who support the effort suspect it will do little to address what they see as fundamental racial injustices - from mass incarceration of black men to a lack of economic and educational opportunities. 


'We are regular human beings, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, Carolinians, educators, and activist - both black and white - who believe in the fundamental idea of humanity. 

The flag we removed is one of the most familiar remnants of white supremacy that supports the idea that there is still a reigning group of individuals who control our freedom, while tacitly supporting white Americans when they commit heinous and racially charged hate crimes against Blacks and People of Color. 

We took this task in our own hands because our, President, Governor, mayors, legislators, and councilmen had a moral duty to remove the flag but failed to act. 

We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continue to fly above their caskets.

We call all people to join us and stand as a united front, to take an active role towards liberating ourselves through the dismantlement of the largest form of our oppression, white supremacy. 

Let this day be the start towards true human progress.'

Source: Ferguson Action / WLTX

In South Los Angeles, where police last year shot and killed Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old unarmed black man, residents interviewed by Reuters said that while they welcomed the prospect of the Civil War-era flag finally being purged from public grounds, they did not see its removal as a watershed moment for race in America.

'Black folks are still being killed; they are still being undereducated; they still have little access to health care,' said Melina Abdullah, an attorney who has helped organize community response to Ford's killing.

Taking down the Confederate flag, she says, will not solve 'institutional racism and a police system that kills black people.'

Streams of statistics underscore those concerns: the average white family had about seven times the wealth of the average black family in 2013, according to the Urban Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington. 

Since the early 1970s, black unemployment has been consistently more than twice as high as white joblessness, government data show. 

And more than 27 percent of blacks live below the poverty line, compared to 13 percent of whites.

In the United States, blacks are more than twice as likely to die from gunshots as whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Still, for many African Americans, the movement to bring down the Confederate flag holds powerful symbolism, especially after Roof was charged with the June 17 shooting in Charleston.

In the days following Roof's arrest, photos were circulated showing the accused killer posing with the flag.

'That symbol, the flag, is hurtful for so many people of color. If you're not a person of color, you might not understand that,' said Jerri Haslem, 51, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and remembers as a child being called a racial slur by a boy wearing a Confederate T-shirt.

Defenders of the flag say it is a symbol of Southern pride and a tribute to the tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers killed in the 1861-65 Civil War. 

But many Americans, black and white, see it as a reminder that 11 Confederate states seceded from the union in order to preserve a system that enslaved blacks.

Despite Newsome's effort, the flag still flies at the state Capitol in South Carolina, where the Civil War began, although the state's Republican governor and other lawmakers now want it removed.

Link to original article from The Daily Mail
Read 55720 times Last modified on Monday, 29 June 2015 12:55