Confederate flag removed from South Carolina Statehouse grounds

In this June 19, 2015, photo, a Confederate flag flies near the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Whether South Carolina should continue to fly the Confederate flag on its statehouse grounds is the latest in a series of issues to arise this summer challenging the GOP’s effort to build the young and diverse coalition of voters it likely needs to win the White House. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – The Confederate flag was removed Friday from a flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse, where it has had a presence for 54 years.

The rebel banner was taken down Friday morning by a Highway Patrol honor guard in a ceremony attended by thousands who cheered at the removal, many yelling “USA, USA” and “Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!”

A van took the flag to a nearby museum, where it will be housed.

To pass the bill that brought the flag down, supporters of its removal promised to build a multimillion dollar shrine for the banner and other Confederate artifacts. Funding details will be worked out during next year’s budget process.

The reversal seemed unthinkable just a month ago. It comes after the June 17 massacre of nine black parishioners at a Charleston church. A white man is charged, and authorities say the killings were racially motivated. The shootings reignited calls to remove Confederate symbols across the country.

The Confederate flag was raised over the Capitol dome in 1961 to protest integration. It was moved in 2000 to a flagpole in front of the Statehouse.

The flagpole was also torn down Friday.

President Barack Obama says taking down the Confederate flag is “a sign of good will and healing and a meaningful step toward a better future.”

Obama posted his reaction on Twitter on Friday, minutes after the flag was removed.

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