For the first time in 17 years, civil rights leaders gathered Monday at the South Carolina Statehouse to pay homage to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. without the Confederate flag casting a long shadow over them.
The banner was taken down over the summer after police said a young white man who had posed for photos with a rebel flag shot nine black church members to death during a Bible study in Charleston. After the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley reversed course and made it a priority for lawmakers to pass legislation to remove the flag.
“Isn’t this a great day? It’s so nice to be standing here and not looking at that flag,” said Ezell Pittman, who attended most of the King Day anti-flag rallies since they started in 2000. “I always had faith it would come down. I hate it took what it did, but was real happy to see it go.”
Across the country, the 30th anniversary of the holiday to honor the civil rights leader assassinated in 1968 was remembered in different ways. In Michigan, people delivered bottled water to residents of Flint amid the city’s drinking water crisis. In Atlanta, an overflow crowd listened as to the nation’s housing secretary talk about the 50th anniversary of King’s visit to Chicago to launch a campaign for fair housing. In Minnesota, a rally against police brutality briefly shut down traffic on a bridge that spans the Mississippi River.
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