The State
Posted with permission from Tribune Content Agency

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Confederate battle flag is gone from the South Carolina State House.

The white-bordered, square banner bearing the St. Andrews cross was lowered for the last time Friday in front of the Confederate Soldier Monument by an honor guard of seven South Carolina Highway Patrol officers.

The four-foot flag was folded and rolled. Troopers walked to the north steps and handed the flag handed to Allen Roberson, director of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, where the banner will eventually go on display.

The flag was driven to the museum by police escort a mile west on Gervais Street from the State House.

The seven-minute ceremony drew thousands of onlookers who filled sidewalks and lawns on the north side of the State House and spilled into the street.

Some chanted shortly before the event, "Take it down," and they cheered when the troopers started to make their way to the flagpole.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley watched the historic ceremony from the Capitol steps with former Govs. David Beasley and Jim Hodges, and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

They watched ended an era when the flag came down at 10:09 a.m. Eastern.

The Confederate battle flag had flown at the Capitol for more the five decades after being raised to honor the 100-year anniversary of the Civil War, which started at Fort Sumter in Charleston.

The flag remained atop the State House dome under the United States and South Carolina flags as the South wrestled against federal civil rights measures.

Some South Carolina state lawmakers and activists spent years trying to remove the flag from South Carolina's most prominent building.

They won a compromise in 2000 when the Confederate flag was taken off the dome and a battle banner was raised at the solider monument along Gervais Street.

The flag was removed for good after the shooting deaths of nine African-American churchgoers at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church last month.

The tragedy that shocked the nation prompted Haley to call for the flag's banishment.

State lawmakers joined her and voted this week to banish the banner despite objections from some legislators who argued the flag and other symbols of the Confederacy did not represent that hate demonstrated by the accused shooter.

Rev. Norvel Goff — who has taken over at Emanuel after its pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, perished in the shootings — watched the Confederate flag lowering in Columbia with Haley and the former governors.