Black Lives Matter protester arrested as tempers flare outside Bree Newsome lecture
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) —
Protesters on both sides of the Confederate Flag debate struck a nerve with each other Wednesday night before a lecture from Bree Newsome at the College of Charleston.
Newsome, who was arrested nearly two years ago after she climbed a now-removed flagpole at the Statehouse in Columbia, spoke on direct action in protests.
But before Newsome could take the stage at Sottile Theatre, members of the South Carolina Secessionists Party spent the week making themselves visible by "flagging" parts of the city.
Their action sparked protests over the weekend, and the raw nerves carried over into Wednesday night when one protester was arrested after he tried to take the only Confederate Flag being flown outside the venue where Newsome would speak.
Loud chants, angry outbursts, and heated words filled the unseasonably warn nighttime air on George Street under the canopy of old live oak trees.
Hundreds of activists lined the sidewalk to voice their opposition to the Confederate Flag and its supporters.
"I needed to be here to stand up against that hateful flag over there and stand in solidarity with my African-American brothers and sisters," said Candy Smith, a member of Black Lives Matter.
For KJ Kearney, it was an opportunity to turn a common phrase heard after last year's presidential election.
"I wanted to make sure that my truth was heard. I respect them. That's what they think. They have pride for their flag but this is what their flag means to me. They lost. So I wanted to make sure that they heard my point of view," Kearney said.
Around 6 p.m., police say Black Lives Matter leader Muhiyidin Moye darted through a barricade and tried to pull a Confederate Flag away from a protester across the street.
The flag pole was busted, but Moye did not get away with the flag. Instead, Charleston police detained him and charged him with disorderly conduct.
James Bessinger was one of only a handful of pro-flag protesters on George Street.
"I'm a little bit upset about the glorification of a woman who broke our state laws," he said of Newsome. "And bringing her in here giving her this type of platform that validates vandalism, it legitimizes criminality."
Wayne, another pro-flag protester, said he was upset with the College for inviting Newsome to speak because "she tore down the flag with intolerance and hate before it could be lowered with dignity."
With police keeping a watchful eye outside the theatre, hundreds of protesters drowned out the words of one man carrying the symbol he reveres.
"Well, I'm obviously outnumbered," Bessinger said, "but I believe in what I'm here for."
Newsome's lecture was a ticketed event, and media members who did not have tickets were not allowed into the theatre. Officials at the College of Charleston said Newsome did not want to field questions from reporters before or after the lecture.