by Paul Bowers
Nearly two weeks after Bree Newsome of North Carolina climbed the flagpole beside the S.C. Statehouse, removed the battle flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, and quoted the Shepherd's Psalm as officers handcuffed her and led her away, the S.C. Highway Patrol Honor Guard took the flag down for good at about 10 a.m. today, by order of a law that Gov. Nikki Haley signed Thursday afternoon.
Crowds began assembling before dawn in Columbia to see the flag come down. It had flown either on or near the state capital building since 1961, when lawmakers put the flag atop the dome both to honor the centennial of the U.S. Civil War and to send a message of defiance to the growing Civil Rights Movement.
The ceremony took only a few minutes. As two members of the Honor Guard lowered the flag and furled it — rather than fold it — some in the crowd took up a chant of "USA! USA! USA!" As the officers tied the flag in simple white string, some started singing "Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye," a song traditionally sung by crowds at sporting events when the home team's victory is close at hand.
The Honor Guard marched back toward the Statehouse and handed the flag over to the curator of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, where it will be transported "for appropriate display," according to state law.
The flagpole is empty. An era is over.