Constant Provocation

This past Saturday at an Independence Day celebration in Columbia, South Carolina, a protest demonstration took place. Hundreds of demonstrators marched to demand the immediate removal of the Confederate flag which has stood as a symbol of slavery since the end of the Civil War. It actually flew over the capitol building in place of the Stars and Stripes until it was moved on July 1, 2000 to a flagpole in front of the building in which the governor and the state government work.

After racist Dylann Roof massacred nine black church members of the Emanuel AME congregation in mid-June, he posted photos of himself on the Internet holding a Confederate flag. Several Ku Klux Klan groups did the same, causing an increase in the number of public demands that displaying the flag in public be banned. Above all, the black community saw the racist banner as a constant and recurring provocation which reminded people that South Carolina was at one time a bastion of slavery and that Charleston Harbor was the location of the largest slave market in North America.

The rally was the second major event since the massacre held under the motto “Take Down the Flag.” The first rally held two weeks earlier drew more than 1,500 participants who assembled at the memorial to the fallen Confederate soldiers of the Civil War who were honored as heroes and is now also the location of the displaced Confederate flag.

On June 7, 30-year-old African-American Bree Newsome succeeded in removing the Confederate flag from the 30-foot flagpole in Charleston, an act for which she was arrested and charged with defacing public property, which carries a potential three year prison sentence. After a series of vigorous protests, she was fined $3,000 and released.

In an interview with the news program Democracy Now, she related how her ancestors had come to America via the Charleston slave market. That was the reason why the Confederate flag, even 150 years after the war that ended slavery, still remained a symbol of bondage and racial oppression and why she felt it was incumbent upon her to remove it on behalf of all black women.

Opponents of the flag demanded the flag be removed from public areas and be displayed in a historical museum. Lawmakers will make that decision later this week. Lonnie Randolph, president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter, told radio station WLTX News 19 in Columbia that the legislature was elected by the people of South Carolina to do the will of the people.

Tom Hall produced a documentary film entitled “Compromised” on the subject of the disputed flag. Hall said people who support keeping the Confederate flag had been “used as pawns in a political chess set.”

That’s how local North and South Carolina racist groups see it as well, announcing they will demonstrate in favor of keeping the Confederate flag as a state symbol. The “Loyal White Knights,” a branch of the Pelham, North Carolina KKK, told Reuters they will demonstrate at the South Carolina state house on July 18. James Spears, the “Great Titan” of the Pelham Klan said, “We’re standing up for the Confederacy,” adding they would hold speeches on the subject of slavery followed by a celebratory cross burning on private property.

And that, as the magazine Politico noted, just a month after the Charleston massacre.

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