On Saturday, more than 1,500 gathered in Columbia, South Carolina, for the “Take It Down” rally, demanding that the Confederate flag be removed from the State House grounds. The rally comes days after a white man killed nine black church members in Charleston.
Planned through a Facebook event page created the morning after the massacre, the event included speakers such as Dr. Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP, and civil rights activist Sarah Leverette, along with other concerned citizens and organizers.
“It’s a sign that people are ready for change and people are willing to fight for it, and that’s really powerful,” DeRay McKesson, a nationally prominent activist, told Fusion.
Take a look below and hear what those in attendance had to say.
Juan Pacheco, 17, Richland Northeast High School student
“The state of South Carolina is very backwards. And I feel like that symbol, it’s symbolic of how our state is stagnant in progress until they take it down.”
“Taking down the flag won’t fix everything. It definitely won’t do that. But I feel like, to open old wounds is to ultimately heal them.”
“Pretty much all my family members were very upset with me wanting to come here today.”
“I found out about it on Facebook. I shared the link and was like, ‘Yes! This is where I’m going tomorrow, I’m so excited. Make a change.’ My aunt called me up and she goes, ‘You know that you’re going against your ancestors? You know that’s disrespectful to what your family has done. We’ve lived in South Carolina for generations.’ I was telling my aunt, it’s not a symbol of Southern heritage. A lot of people think it’s very disrespectful and it represents a period of American history that’s shameful. And it represents slavery.”
“I’m going to be the generation that breaks the racism in my family.”
“It’s long overdue that the flag comes down. I think it’s a symbol of oppression and white supremacy. And I want my kids to know that it’s important to speak up when you feel strongly about things. And I think it’s the least we can do for our black brothers and sisters in South Carolina.”
Rachel Reid, 16
“When I looked out, it was so beautiful to me, honestly. Because, I’ve been protesting to have this flag down since I was a little kid.”
“A lot of people ignore the real true connotation of the flag. It’s been a symbol of racism and discrimination and has been held by hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan for so long. I just feel like we should not have a symbol of disgrace like that hanging from our Capitol. If it offends even just one of our citizens I feel like that’s enough. Because everybody should come to our state capital and feel proud, whether they’re a South Carolinian or someone from the north or from another country, this is supposed to be a symbol of pride. And that’s a symbol of shame.”
Rev. Carly Wicklund of Shandon United Methodist Church
“To be honest, I think we all get very comfortable seeing that flag and it’s not until something terrible happens that we realize what it does and the effect that it has on people. I’ve started just becoming aware of the danger that it can do.”
Jason Alston, PhD student
“I think the turnout is impressive but what I find more impressive is that there’s almost no counter protest or presence here and that’s very shocking. But I think it says a lot about our state and who we truly are.”
Sarah Leverette, 95, civil rights activist and attorney
“We have a race problem. We must face it. We have to face the fact that we have one. We have to address it socially, culturally, individually, collectively, and politically.”
“The Charleston massacre came as a shock. I knew things were going the wrong way. I knew that we weren’t addressing the issue. But when this happened, I think it brought it to life, and it’s a wakeup call.”
Tom Hall, filmmaker, attorney, and rally organizer
“You look up here at this flag, and you see what pain it causes to these people.”
“I was proud to sing ‘Dixie.’ I had a Robert E. Lee portrait. I had a Confederate cowboy hat. I grew up on a farm, hunting and fishing. And that was the culture I grew up in. At some point in my life I matured, I don’t know really what–I think you just start having empathy and you realize how this makes people feel. And if you love your neighbor and you want to do right by other people, and you’re a person of goodwill then you’re going to take steps towards righting a wrong. And this is so obvious and no one’s been doing anything.”
Ebony and Willie Kelly
“After the massacre in Charleston, I felt like we wanted to do something, and I wanted my kids to come out. I wanted them to see solidarity. It’s not just a black issue or white issue, it’s a human race issue. It’s everyone.” –Willie Kelly
“Hopefully Governor Haley can pull together a session and have the flag taken down. It doesn’t take 365 days to make this happen. This is something that needs to happen now.” –Ebony Kelly
DeRay McKesson, nationally prominent activist
“I’m always encouraged by seeing people with privilege use their privilege to be disruptive. And that’s what you see today with so many white allies saying that this is a flag that is their history too, and that history is problematic and should not be celebrated in the way that it is.”