The Confederate battle flag is gone from the South Carolina State House.
The white-bordered, square banner bearing the St. Andrews cross was lowered for the last time Friday in front of the Confederate Soldier Monument by an honor guard of seven S.C. Highway Patrol officers.
They folded and rolled up the four-foot flag. Troopers walked to the north steps and handed the flag handed to Allen Roberson, director of the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, where the banner will eventually go on display.
The flag was driven to the museum by police escort a mile west on Gervais Street from the State House.
The seven-minute ceremony that drew thousands of onlookers who filled sidewalks and lawns on the north side of the State House and spilled into Gervais Street.
Some in the crowd chanted shortly before the event, “Take it down.” Cheers rose when the troopers started to make their way to the flagpole along the lawn that separates the north stairs and the solider monument.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley watched the historic ceremony from the Capitol steps with former Govs. David Beasley and Jim Hodges.
They saw ended an era when the flag came down at 10:09 a.m.
The Confederate battle flag had flown at the Capitol for more the five decades after being raised to honor the 100-year anniversary of the Civil War, which started at Fort Sumter in Charleston.
The flag remained atop the State House dome under the United States and South Carolina flags as the South wrestled against federal civil rights measures.
Some South Carolina state lawmakers and activists spent years trying to remove the flag from South Carolina’s most prominent building.
They won a compromise in 2000 when the Confederate flag was taken off the dome and a battle banner was raised at the solider monument along Gervais Street.
The flag was removed for good after the shooting deaths of nine African-American churchgoers at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church last month.
The tragedy that shocked the nation prompted Haley to call for the flag’s banishment.
State lawmakers joined her. They voted this week to banish the banner despite objections from some legislators who argued the flag and other symbols of the Confederacy did not represent that hate demonstrated by the accused shooter.
The influence of the Charleston tragedy was evident during the Confederate flag ceremony Friday.
Haley and the former governors were joined by Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and Rev. Norvel Goff — who has taken over at Emanuel after its pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, perished in the shootings on June 17.
The same state Highway Patrol color guard that took down the flag escorted Pinckney’s casket to lay at rest inside the State House last month.
State Rep. Gary Clary, a retired Circuit Court judge from Pickens and freshman Republican lawmaker who was among the first legislators to call for the flag to come down in the wake of the shooting, brought his 13-year-old grandson Conner Pederson to witness the momentous day.
“It was just incredible to be able to witness history because that’s something that’s going to last a lifetime,” Pederson said.
Clary said that now South Carolina can focus on important issues such as roads, education, mental health and economic development.
“This allows us to move forward into the 21st century,” he said.
Later Friday, State House crews will remove the last visible remains of the flag. The 30-foot flagpole and decorative black iron fence will be taken down at 2 p.m.