Several dozens supporters of the Confederate battle flag rallied Saturday at the South Carolina Statehouse, urging lawmakers to reject a call to remove the controversial banner from the grounds of the Capitol.
The rally came just hours after an activist climbed the pole where the flag flies and removed it. A new flag was put in its place within an hour.
The rally was not in response to that incident, having been planned since late in the week.
The supporters argued that they believe a majority of people in the state want the flag to remain where it is. To remove it, they said, would be to go against the will of the people.
Ryan Hughes, one of those who attended, said flag opponents aren’t taking the symbol’s representation of Southern history into account.
“They are wrong,” Hughes said. “They need a history lesson. They need to go back and look at what this flag really stands for, and that is states rights. That’s freedom from tyranny. That’s freedom from subjugation from the federal government.”
Several anti-flag demonstrators where there as well and debated the flag proponents. While the discussion at times got heated, it remained civil.
On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called on lawmakers to remove the Confederate flag in response to the killing of nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Investigators say the shooting was racially motivated, and pictures that surfaced online showed the alleged shooter posing with the Confederate flag.