After days of intense debate and a decisive vote by South Carolina lawmakers, the Confederate flag was removed Friday from its perch above the Statehouse complex in the capital city of Columbia. The flag's removal, overwhelmingly approved this week by members of the state Senate and House of Representatives, ended a contentious battle between Confederate heritage enthusiasts and civil right activists that spanned more than 50 years in South Carolina.
A brief ceremony was held Friday at 10 a.m. EDT, during which the flag was lowered from a pole near a Confederate soldier monument and placed in a nearby state museum, according to the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper. To watch a live stream of the ceremony, view the video player below or click here.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday signed a General Assembly-approved bill that sent the battle flag to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, located several blocks away from the Statehouse complex. "It’s a great day in South Carolina,” Haley told Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” show Friday morning.
Columbia, S.C. pic.twitter.com/IVy9c8BW44
— Alan Blinder (@alanblinder) July 10, 2015
Crowds were lined up as early as 7 a.m. local time to watch the flag come down. Members of the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston were expected to attend the ceremony. A racially motivated mass shooting at the church June 17 renewed a 15-year Confederate flag debate in South Carolina and other Southern states. The shooting, which killed nine Emanuel church members, including pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, was carried out by a 21-year-old Confederate-inspired Columbia man who claimed he targeted the historically black church to start a race war.
— Kyle Jordan (@KyleLive5) July 10, 2015
The Confederate flag was first raised above the South Carolina Statehouse in the 1960s, according to the Post and Courier. The banner was displayed on top of the Statehouse capitol dome until 2000, when lawmakers voted to move it to its current location. At the time, pro-flag lawmakers adopted a requirement that two-thirds of each legislative chamber vote on future flag relocation. Both chambers garnered enough support in votes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
But pro-flag lawmakers were concerned about the consequences of voting the flag down. Several Senate and House members reported receiving death threats from constituents who were angry about their stance on the flag's removal. White supremacist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, promised to stage a rally in South Carolina if the flag was voted down.
— Jon Bruce (@ABCnews4jbruce) July 10, 2015