Following the tragic deaths of nine people in Charleston, South Carolina last week, during a massacre by alleged killer Dylann Roof, impassioned conversation over the Confederate Flag—a deeply controversial symbol associated with strained race relations in the United States, following roots to South Carolina’s William Porcher Miles, an ardent supporter of slavery—has surged to new heights.
Overnight, activist Bree Newsome staged a protest against South Carolina’s continued use of the flag, while scaling a flag pole on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds at dawn, and successfully removing its Confederate flag. Newsome, 30, was arrested along with 30-year-old man James Ian Tyson.
The moment was nothing short of powerful.
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) June 27, 2015
After immediately being arrested for their protest, a crowdfunding campaign emerged online, asking for donations for Newsome and Tyson’s bail and legal fees over the arrest. Support for the campaign, as well as the #FreeBree and #KeepItDown tags, was overwhelming, as a goal of $20,000 was reached within hours.
The campaign, asking for “support for other courageous activists taking direct action in the movement for Black lives” has now reached over $90,000 – and counting.
Within an hour of Newsome’s protest, the flag was raised once again.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama led ‘Amazing Grace’ and eulogised State Senator and Senior Pastor Clementa C Pinckney, who died alongside eight others in last week’s mass shooting. Obama condemned the presence of the Confederate flag in America, describing it as a symbol of “systematic oppression and racial subjugation.”
The growing protest over the Confederate flag has caused retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, eBay, Sears and Alibaba to pull Confederate flag merchandise from their shelves and online stores.
Commenting on the incident in a statement, Newsome explained her motivation for the protest:
“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. 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.”