Alabama NAACP Arrested, Attempting to Take Down Confederate Flag in 1988

July 2, 2015 / By Erika Yun, NAACP Washington Bureau

AL Gov. Bentley directed the Confederate flag to be taken down. Photo: AL.com

The events of June 16, 2015 will forever remain in the minds of all residents of the United States.  The massacre of the nine at Emanuel A.M.E. has caused the nation to explode with fear, horror, heartache, and anger.  There is a real and bitter anger towards racism.  There is a real and raw anger towards the belief in white supremacy.  There is a real and intense anger directed towards a symbol that continues to energize and perpetuate these injustices: the Confederate flag.

The media discovered and circulated images of the Charleston shooter posing with the Confederate flag along with pieces of his racist manifesto which calls attention to the heated debate surrounding the legitimacy and meaning of the battle flag.  What does the Confederate flag represent?  Is the flag a symbol of Southern pride and history, or is it a representation of injustice, oppression, and hate like the Nazi swastika?  Should the Confederate flag be flown side by side with the national flag on public grounds, or should it remain within the history museums?

As the nation continues the debate on online forums and at the dinner tables, one state has responded by officially taking down the flag from its Capitol.  In the morning of June 24, just seven days after the shooting, the Confederate flags in front of Alabama’s Capitol building in Montgomery were taken down in silence.  The order for the removal was given straight from Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley.  Gov. Bentley described that taking down the four Confederate flags was the “right thing to do.”  Though this removal of the flag is truly an incredible landmark in U.S. history in 2015, it should have happened several decades ago.

Close to three decades ago, in 1988 then president of Alabama NAACP, State Representative Thomas Reed, and 13 others were arrested for climbing “an 8-foot fence around the State Capitol [Montgomery]” to take down that same Confederate flag.  On Tuesday, February 2, the efforts of these 14 brave individuals were thwarted, and the flag continued to fly.  However, 27 years later, the need to take down the symbol of hate and racism is being seriously reconsidered, and, at least in one state, the need to do the right thing has finally been realized, recognized and acted upon.  What this nation has witnessed in June 2015 and what it can continue to work towards embodies the words supporters of the 14 sang out back in 1988 Alabama: we shall overcome…we’re onto victory…we shall live in peace.

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