66° Good Morning
66° Good Morning

Activist takes down Confederate flag outside South Carolina state capitol, officials say

Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome, 30, descends the 30-foot

Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome, 30, descends the 30-foot flagpole located at the South Carolina state capitol on June 27, 2015. Photo Credit: Twitter / Ferguson Action

An activist climbed a flagpole outside the South Carolina state capitol early on Saturday and took down the Confederate flag, state officials said, a day after U.S. President BarackObama called the banner a symbol of racial oppression.

The Civil War-era flag has been a focal point for soul-searching across the southern United States in the aftermath of the fatal shooting last week of nine African Americans during a Bible study session at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The suspect in the shootings, Dylann Roof, 21, had posed with a Confederate flag in photos posted on a website that also displayed a racist manifesto.

Following the removal of the flag in Columbia, two people were arrested and charged with defacing a monument, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety said in a statement. The banner was replaced within an hour and no further damage was caused, it said.

The department identified the pair as Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome, 30, and James Ian Tyson, also 30, both from North Carolina.

A group of local activists said they organized the removal of the flag, which by law flies at a memorial on the State House grounds honoring soldiers who fought on the side of the pro-slavery Confederacy during the 1860-65 American Civil War.

"We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continues to fly above their caskets," an activist group organized under the Twitter tag #KeepItDown said in a statement.

At a funeral for the slain pastor in Charleston on Friday,

Obama called the banner "a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation".

"For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens," Obama said in his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 41, of Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church.

The South Carolina Legislature is expected to begin debate next week on a measure allowing the state to remove the flag from the memorial. It flies there in keeping with legislation passed in 2000 that removed the crimson-and-blue banner from the top of the capitol dome in response to the demands of protesters.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.