(CN) – A woman climbed a flagpole and cut down the Confederate flag in front of the South Carolina statehouse Saturday before promptly being arrested and seeing the banner raised again less than an hour later.
Bree Newsome, dressed in climbing gear, spoke respectfully with police gathered at the base of the flag pole as she continued to move ever closer to the flag.
A video of her climb captures Newsome, a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, talking to police from about two-thirds the way up the 30-foot pole, evidently acknowledging her imminent arrest.
“I know sir. I’m prepared,” she says.
“Ma’am, come down off the pole,” the officers yell as passing motorists honked their horns at the scene.
“You cannot get to me with hatred and oppression and violence,” Newsome shouted as she cut the flag down. “In the name of God, this flag comes down today.”
The unilateral removal of the flag was organized by a multiracial group of about 10 individuals identifying themselves as educators and local activists. While she climbed, Newsome, who is black, was spotted by James Tyson, who is white.
Both were arrested as a group of onlookers and supporters cheered. They have been charged with defacing a monument, and as of mid-morning Saturday, were still being held in jail.
In a release distributed at the scene and by email, the group said, “We are regular human beings, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, Carolinians, educators, and activist -both black and white- who believe in the fundamental idea of humanity.
“The flag we removed is one of the most familiar remnants of white supremacy that supports the idea that there is still a reigning group of individuals who control our freedom, while tacitly supporting white Americans when they commit heinous and racially charged hate crimes against Blacks and People of Color,” the statement continued. “We took this task in our own hands because our, President, Governor, mayors, legislators, and councilmen had a moral duty to remove the flag but failed to act. We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continue to fly above their caskets.”
They also called on others “to join us and stand as a united front, to take an active role towards liberating ourselves through the dismantlement of the largest form of our oppression, white supremacy. Let this day be the start towards true human progress.”
Tamika Lewis, a youth educator from Charlotte, North Carolina, who was also an organizer of the flag removal, said she and her follow protestors felt they had to act.
We could not stand by while the flag that inspired the racist murder of innocent black churchgoing people continued to fly while those same individuals are laid to rest … the South Carolina legislature neglected their duty to the people, their religious morality and God by not acting in a timely manner,” Lewis said.
The group said it had intended to keep the flag in a box, without defacing it, while the funerals for the nine people killed by an alleged white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. on June 17 continue this weekend.
State police officers confiscated the flag immediately, and statehouse maintenance works had it back up before 8 a.m.
The incident occurred just hours before a planned rally at the site of Confederate flag supporters.
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