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As Confederate Flag Comes Down, Calls for 'Righteous Resistance' Against Racism

For many, flag's downing is testament to people power, but institutional racism far from over

A large crowd cheered as the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse on Friday. (Photo: Travis Dove/The New York Times )

A large crowd cheered as the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse on Friday. (Photo: Travis Dove/The New York Times )

Thousands flocked to the South Carolina statehouse on Friday to witness and cheer the lowering of the Confederate flag, a symbol of anti-black racism and slavery that has flown over the government building for more than five decades.

The flag in the state capital of Columbia was downed after Gov. Nikki Haley pressed for legislation and lawmakers in the state's House of Representatives and Senate voted to permanently remove it.

But the real impetus for the change came from public demands for its removal, which have been waged for years but escalated nationwide following the June 17 white supremacist massacre of nine African Americans at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

"Let the confederate flag falling today in South Carolina re-energize you and remind you of the power of protest, of the power of your voice," wrote anti-racist organizer DeRay McKesson on Twitter Friday.

The following video shows the precise moment the flag was lowered, to the sound of loud cheering. The flag will be moved to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum and its pole will be removed from the statehouse grounds.

Friday was not the first time this summer the flag has been removed. Late last month, writer, artist, and activist Bree Newsome staged a direct action by climbing the statehouse flagpole and removing the flag, declaring "We can't wait any longer" before being arrested.

The flag was initially raised in Columbia in the early 1960s to oppose the civil rights movement and racial integration, and it has remained with the support of politicians on both sides of the political aisle. The flag was just one of many still-standing explicitly racist symbols across the United States.

While major media outlets were quick to declare the flag's downing to be the "end of an era," many argue that one symbol's removal does not signify a conclusion of institutional racism, which rages across the United States—from schools to prisons to police departments. In fact, the south has seen resurging backlash to public outrage over the Charleston massacre, from increased KKK activity to the mysterious burning of black churches.

"I'm 100% glad that the flag is down," Newsome wrote Friday on Twitter. "However, we can't allow it to end here. Systemic racism must be actively dismantled. Now."

To that end, black communities and their allies across the southern United States are calling for nationwide participation in the "Week of Righteous Resistance" from July 12 to July 18.

Organized by groups including the Samuel DeWitt and Proctor Conference, Ferguson Action, and Hands Up United, events will include: counter-rallies against the KKK; history teach-ins; solidarity marches with the Moral Mondays movement; and rallies to declare Black Lives Matter.

Updates and commentary on the week of action are being posted to Twitter:

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