Rally Sees Confederate Flag Flying At South Carolina Statehouse Once More Amid Protests

On Sunday, the Confederate flag once more flew outside of the South Carolina Statehouse. The move comes one year after the controversial battle flag was ordered to be removed; the Washington Post assures that its return to the building is only temporary.

The raising of the Confederate flag occurred because of a rally that the South Carolina Secessionist Party is hoping to make a new annual tradition, a rally to raise the Confederate battle flag. The rally drew both supporters for the flag, many dressed in Civil War garb, as well as protesters, some of whom were armed with bullhorns.

South Carolina’s Confederate flag flew once more for several hours while the groups who came out, those for and against, were kept separate by metal barriers organized on the front lawn of the Statehouse. During the rally, there was a strong police presence. Officers were also supported by helicopters that kept circling overhead in order to keep the peace.

This rally, the presence of the actual flying of the Confederate flag, occurred despite backlash coming from all across the country, including outright protests and calls from South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley, President Obama, as well as Vice President Biden, all of whom supported the call to have it removed in the first place. The flag was ordered to be removed from the state’s property last year after being seen as a symbol of hate and intolerance, especially in the wake of the racist Charleston church massacre. Despite all this, the Secessionist Party decided that there was a need to honor the stars and bars flag.

The Confederate flag was removed after that white man walked into the Charleston Church and gunned down nine black persons inside. The monument it had flown next to, the Confederate Soldiers Monument, remained, but the flag was taken down and sent to a museum and the 30-foot flag pole dismantled.

On their Facebook event page the group called the taking down of the flag as the “greatest treason” in the history of the state, calling it a sacred symbol and calling for people to support the rally.

“Fellow Southerners from across the Southern States will stand together in solidarity and defense of what we hold sacred.”

The South Carolina capitol police are said to have attempted to get the group to postpone the rally in light of the very high racial tensions across the country following the officer-involved shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, as well as the seeming retaliation by civilians who have been targeting white people and police officers. However, the New York Daily News states that contacting James Bessenger, the Secessionist Party’s board chairman, did nothing to delay or hinder the rally to raise the Confederate flag as the group refused to consider the option.

At Sunday’s rally, the re-enactors and supporters of the rally hoisted the battle flag onto a portable pole in the same spot where it stood before as about 200 people looked on. Many of the supporters of the South Carolina Secessionist Party also carried and held their own individual flags as well. As the Confederate flag was raised, many in the crowd saluted, applauded, and cheered, even shouting “Leave it there!” A sing-along of “Dixie” also took place.

The official counterprotest of the flag’s celebration which was organized by the Black Lives Matter movement was cancelled in the wake of the Dallas shootings, but dozens of protesters came nonetheless. One protester used his bullhorn to chant that “That flag is hate! That’s why it was taken down in the first place.”

The flag will soon be removed once more and returned to a history museum to be tucked away among other symbols of the confederacy.

[Photo by Meg Kinnard/AP Images]