SOUTH CAROLINA: Support for Confederacy “Dying Out” As Protestors Mark Anniversary of Flag Removal
COLUMBIA – Calvin Guyette held his sign directly in front of the man at the monument honoring the Confederate dead. A few feet of sidewalk and two lines of metal barricades separated the two.
They both stood in silence.
Guyette held a flattened Amazon delivery box. “Pride in the confederacy is pride in slavery,” it read.
The man held a furled flag.
Guyette was in a line of a few dozen protesters, a tally that outnumbered the four people who participated in the tribute at the monument.
He didn’t speak to the man on the other side of the metal fence, but Guyette did have a thought about him as he stood in the morning sun: “The motivation of people supporting the Confederacy is dying out.”
National reckoning surrounds anniversary of Confederate flag’s lowering at SC Statehouse
Confederate symbols have been a major focus of the national reckoning of America’s racist history in recent weeks. Mississippi’s governor signed a law at the end of June to remove a Confederate emblem from the state flag. Monuments honoring Confederate military leaders have been removed by officials or torn down by demonstrators throughout the South.
President Donald Trump has also focused on the issue, from his desk in the Oval Office to his Twitter thread. Trump signed an executive order aiming to protect monuments and statues on June 26. On Monday, he tweeted about how NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag at its events contributed to its lowest ratings ever.
On Friday, at their tribute, members of the group called South Carolina Memorial Honour Guard, according to documents from the state Department of Administration, didn’t appear to speak to anyone other than law enforcement. Not the press. Not to the protesters.
The group doesn’t appear to have an online presence, either.
Two of the people declined to comment as they were leaving the barricaded area.
According to documents filed for their demonstration’s reservation, the ceremony was a reenactment of a Civil War honor guard. They laid a wreath at the monument and dressed in Civil War uniforms.
The flag they held, however, was not a Confederate one. It was the South Carolina state flag.
And they acted on a day that means something to South Carolina, so that, alone, already says something. Friday marked the five-year anniversary of the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds.
Some 8,000 people cheered and chanted as the State Highway Patrol Honor Guard lowered the flag that morning. The flag that flew at the Statehouse monument is now on display a few blocks away. It hangs in the South Carolina Relic Room and Military Museum.
July 10, 2015, was a historic day that dealt with South Carolina’s past. Tragedy prompted it. Dylann Roof, the white shooter who killed nine Black people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, posed in pictures with the Confederate flag in the months leading up the massacre. Then-Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill to take down the flag 22 days after the killings.
One day in Charleston:Tragedy remembered, justice demanded, a statue defaced
This anniversary, however, didn’t just belong to the South Carolina Memorial Honour Guard. Another group called Showing Up for Racial Justice also reserved space for a rally at the Statehouse.
According to the Department of Administration, both groups submitted requesta to reserve the area around the soldier’s monument at the exact same time, down to the second, at exactly 12:00 a.m. on July 10, 2019. The department grants reservations for events on a first-come, first-served basis, though people can assemble without a reservation to exercise First Amendment rights.
So, the compromise became to split the day between the two groups. The members of the South Carolina Memorial Honor Guard left hours before Showing Up for Racial Justice’s event officially began Friday afternoon.
Their demonstration was part of the ongoing national protests over racial injustice and police brutality, including in the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for roughly nine minutes on Memorial Day.
‘The follow-through is what is happening now’
Tom Clements was in the crowd as the Confederate flag lowered in 2015.
“The problem was there wasn’t a follow-through,” he said. “The follow-through is what is happening now, taking more steps to assure racial justice and remove symbols of white supremacy.”
Clements carried the sign he had that day with him on Friday. It said, “Victory! It’s down!”
He taped those words on the board right after a member of the State Highway Patrol Honor Guard folded the Confederate flag.
He’s used the same sign since 2010. He tapes new words for the new times. But the back of the sign has remained the same.
He taped a listing of his relatives who fought and died for the Confederacy in the Civil War, including his great-great-grandfather and three great-great-uncles. Removing symbols of the Confederacy, he said, would allow them to rest in peace. That is how he honors his ancestors — he moves on, and he moves forward.
Clements added his ancestors to his protest sign as a way to “inoculate” himself against pro-Confederate demonstrators. His past became a part of his argument for a better future, he said.
It didn’t work, he said. They would just call him “scalawag” or “traitor.”
He didn’t try to talk to anyone honoring the monument Friday.
He’s noticed fewer and fewer pro-Confederate demonstrations at the Statehouse in recent years — and fewer people there when they did happen.
“They know the tide is turning, and they are dying,” Clements said. ” The opinions they support are on their way out, and they are just clinging on by their fingernails.”
The movement Friday, he said, “is lead by the youth” and “is going to lead to lasting change.”
Clements, however, isn’t putting away his sign.
He plans on coming back to the Statehouse Saturday morning.
Another group called Flags Across the South reserved the Statehouse grounds for 7 a.m. They plan to raise a “battle flag,” according to the reservation forms.
And they’re planning for 200 people to show up.