Woman scales State House flagpole, removes Confederate flag

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Confederate flag was temporarily removed from in front of the South Carolina State House Saturday morning.

A small activist group out of North Carolina decided to take action today to "do what the SC legislature has thus far neglected to do," according to a news release.

Thirty-year-old Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome of Raleigh, NC was about halfway up the more than 30-foot steel flagpole just after dawn Saturday when State Capitol police told her to come down. Instead, she continued climbing and removed the flag before returning to the ground.

Newsome and another man, 30-year-old James Ian Tyson of Charlotte, who had entered the wrought-iron fence surrounding the flag were arrested.

"We removed the flag today because we can't wait any longer," Newsome said. "We can't continue like this another day. It's time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality. Every day that the flag is up there is an endorsement of hate.”

“We are regular human beings, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, Carolinians, educators, and activist[s] —both black and white— who believe in the fundamental idea of humanity," a statement from the unnamed group said. "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.”

The group had hoped the flag, which is protected by state law, would be absent from the pole for a planned flag supporter rally scheduled for later Saturday morning but that wasn't the case. A new flag was raised again a short time later.

A South Carolina Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said Newsome and Tyson have been charged with defacing a monument. They were released on $3000 bond each, both are allowed to leave the state but must return for their next appearance scheduled for July 27. The charge carries a a prison sentence up to three years and a $5,000 fine.

A crowd fund set up to pay for Newsroom's bail and legal expenses has been set up on the website Indigo. The "Bail for Brie Newsome" fund had raised more than $81,750 in ten hours.

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 church last week.

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