Bree Newsome, as seen in a still from a video shot of her flag removal demonstration on Saturday.
On Saturday, filmmaker and musician Bree Newsome did something many people have wanted to do for a long time: Instead of waiting for South Carolina lawmakers to agree on removing the Confederate flag from outside the State House, she climbed up the flag pole and took the damn thing down herself.
The entire action was caught on video:
The Confederate flag has been flying outside the South Carolina Capitol for more than 75 years. The Southern legislators raised the flag outside the Capitol building in 1938, after Congress discussed (but didn’t pass) a bill that would have made lynching a federal crime. Newsome’s brazen act of civil disobedience wasn’t undertaken lightly—she was secure in a harness during the climb and refused police officers’ commands to descend before she’d grabbed the flag. Newsome and her ally James Ian Tyson were arrested after the action and are now facing criminal charges.
Today, Newsome published a lengthy statement explaining the action at Blue Nation Review. Her statement begins by describing how she felt when she heard the news of the Charleston massacre. It reminded her of the scene in Selma where the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham is bombed. “This was not a page in a textbook I was reading nor an inscription on a monument I was visiting,” writes Newsome. “This was now. This was real. This was—this is—still happening.” For far too long, she explains, the Confederate flag has flown as a reminder of white supremacy and racist violence. “I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free,” she writes.
Read Newsome’s whole statement here. Meanwhile, shortly after her protest, the Confederate flag was returned to the flag pole outside the Capitol. When will it finally be taken down for good?