The heated debate over the Confederate flag escalated last night into an actual brawl, when about 10 flag supporters arrived at the South Carolina statehouse in Columbia and clashed with the about 30 protesters who were rallying there against the flag.
About 50 state and city police officers were needed to contain the clash. One person was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. The fight began when a group of vehicles filled with flag supporters pulled up in front of the statehouse, “exited their vehicles and began to engage in an altercation with the crowd,” according to local TV news station WISTV.
“It felt like they were taunting us and the people on the ‘take it down’ side reacted to that,” one of the anti-flag protestors told the station.
The flag’s symbolism is at the center of a nation-wide discussion about the legacy of the Civil War following a shooting in Charleston, South Carolina when white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed 9 people at a historic black church. Images of Roof wielding a Confederate flag, to many a symbol of slavery and racism, surfaced online following the shooting.
The Ku Klux Klan planned a rally on the statehouse grounds next month, telling Politico that the flag is “part of white people’s culture.”
The debate takes on a particularly loaded meaning in Columbia, where the Confederate flag still flies on the statehouse grounds. One of Roof’s victims was state senator Clementa Pinckney.
Over the weekend, activist Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole in Columbia, briefly taking down the flag. She was arrested along with a companion, and has since become an online folk hero.
South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has call for the flag to be taken down. State lawmakers will consider proposals to do so next week.