Politics & Government

2 years after it came down, Confederate flag returns to SC State House

Supporters marked the second anniversary Monday of the Confederate flag’s removal from the S.C. State House’s grounds Monday by returning the rebel banner to its former place of prominence.

A group of less than 100 gathered near the Confederate soldiers’ memorial on Gervais Street to raise the banner on a temporary flag pole in the same spot where it flew, until the S.C. Legislature voted to remove it.

The flag came down two years ago, in the aftermath of a racially motivated mass slaying, after a consensus emerged the banner was too hurtful and polarizing to be flown by the state. Subsequently, Confederate monuments elsewhere also have been targeted for removal.

But many of those at Monday’s event said they are worried a part of their heritage had be erased by removing the symbols.

“My husband has 18 (Confederate) ancestors,” said Lori Bobbitt of Concord, N.C., who appeared at the State House in Civil War-era clothing.

“It’s important for me to stand for my ancestry,” said Bobbitt, adding she is the great-granddaughter of a Confederate soldier. “Knowing where you come from helps you know where you’re going.”

Wayne Jones of North Augusta said he had a “responsibility” to attend Monday;s rally.

“Our history is being taught by revisionists,” said Jones, “In every landscape, they’re trying to erase our history and our heritage.”

Gesturing toward a younger man in the crowd, Jones asked “How is this young man going to learn unless we teach true history? There’s no way.”

Jones said his great-grandfather served in the Confederate military even though, like most white Southerners at the time, he didn’t own slaves. “He served for four years to defend his family.”

The event, organized by the S.C. Secessionist Party, drew a smaller crowd of both flag supporters and protesters than a rally held a year ago. Then, some 150 supporters were separated from protesters by barricades and law enforcement officers during a weekend event marking the first anniversary of the flag’s removal.

The Confederate flag was removed from State House grounds on July 10, 2015, after nine African-American worshipers were killed in a mass shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. The gunman, Dylann Roof, was an avowed white supremacist who had posed in photos with the Confederate flag. The flag removed was supposed to go on public display, but it remains in a box at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia.

As flag supporters rallied Monday, about a dozen protesters on the nearby Gervais Street sidewalk tried to drown out the ceremony with chants and taunts shouted through a bullhorn.

“I’m a seventh-generation South Carolinian, and this is not my heritage,” said Ben Byrdic of West Columbia.

Julie Edwards said she was prepared to keep protesting as long as the Secessionist Party continues to hoist the flag on the anniversary of its removal.

“We’ll never allow it to come back officially,” she said. “If they come every year, we’ll come too.”

Bobbitt, the North Carolina flag supporter, said the protesters didn’t bother her.

“Their families are important to them, I hope,” she said. “And my family is important to me.”

Associated Press contributed; Bristow Marchant: 803-771-8405, @BristowatHome, @BuzzAtTheState

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