Activist who took SC Confederate flag down: ‘The law that protects that symbol of hate is an unjust law’
While she faces three years in jail for taking the Confederate battle flag down in front of the South Carolina capitol, activist Bree Newsome “felt in no way” that she did the wrong thing, she told Democracy Now host Amy Goodman.
“Yes, I broke the law, but laws can also be unjust,” Newsome said. “And I feel that the law that protects that symbol of hate is an unjust law. The fact that, you know, the people who are elected in office who want to take it down are obligated by law to debate over whether or not they can take it down is unjust.”
Newsome was arrested after climbing up the flagpole outside the capitol on June 27 and unhooking the flag, but an online fundraising campaign quickly raised more than $50,000 on her behalf.
While she was wary of being shot during her act of protest, Newsome said, part of the reason she felt it was important to take the flag down was to fight the fear and racial intimidation the flag symbolizes.
“These are the same things that they would fly when people were marching for integration,” she explained. “They would be flying that flag, because it’s a sign of intimidation, which is undergirded by violence, and has been undergirded by violence ever since the failure of Reconstruction.”
Newsome and fellow activist James Tyson were arrested and charged with defacing state property. Each faces a possible fine of up to $5,000 as well as three years in prison. But Tyson told Goodman that he felt it was “unacceptable” that state officials refused to even lower the flag to half-mast while funeral services began for the victims killed in a terrorist attack inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
“I’m going to try to do everything I possibly can to make sure that justice and equality are served in our country, but also, you know, just in my locality,” Tyson said. “It’s critically important that white people actually put some skin in the game, you know, because racism is unacceptable. White supremacy is unacceptable. Hate crimes are unacceptable. You know, we can’t live in this culture anymore.”
Both Tyson and Newsome are being represented by Democratic state Rep. Todd Rutherford, who has also expressed his support for taking the flag down permanently, a move that lawmakers will discuss later this month.
“I don’t think that that symbol deserves the dignity of debate,” Newsome said. “It doesn’t deserve that. It’s a flag of treason, and it’s a flag of hatred.”
Watch the interview, as aired on Thursday, below.