Vanessa Williams, THE WASHINGTON POST
CHARLESTON, S.C. (The Washington Post) — The elaborate ceremony Friday to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse grounds threatened to overshadow the very act of removing a symbol that had caused so tension and testimony over the state of race relations in recent weeks.
The color guard, the phalanx of elected officials, and the cheering — and sometimes jeering — crowd of spectators all made the event feel at turns like both a state funeral and a pep rally. Neither seemed an entirely appropriate tone for the occasion, given the horrifying circumstances that led South Carolina lawmakers to finally retire the banner that, in spite of controversy, had defiantly held an official place of honor for more than 50 years.
It was the June 17 slayings of nine black people, gunned down while attending Bible study at historic Emanuel African American Episcopal Church in Charleston, that escalated demands to remove the flag. The alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old self-avowed racist, was photographed displaying the Confederate flag, along with other racist icons. Even then, some leaders of the Republican-dominated state government initially balked, as did Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. They argued that Roof, not the flag, was to blame for the murders.