Bree Newsome and James Tyson, the activists who became national heroes this weekend when they removed the Confederate Flag that flew above the Charleston, South Carolina state house, could face up to three years in jail if charged and convicted over the incident. Newsome and Tyson were arrested on Saturday (June 27), but then released before sundown when the #FreeBree online campaign was able to raise $60,000 in bail money.
Newsome, 30, is an artist with a long legacy of activism. Her father, Clarence G. Newsome, is a former dean at Howard University, trustee of Duke University and now president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The New York University grad scaled the flagpole in the wee hours of the morning and removed the flag, which has been the source of much pain and intense debate after the massacre at Emanuel AME church.
Her efforts inspired an immediate collective cheer from the Internet. Ava DuVernay even tweeted that she wants "to direct a motion picture about a Black superhero I admire. Her name is @BreeNewsome."
The NAACP also released a statement on Newsome's arrest, saying, "for 15 years, the NAACP has called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag and has maintained economic sanctions against the state of South Carolina. The NAACP, Governor Nikki Haley, a bipartisan coalition of policymakers, an expanding number of American businesses, and a courageous young woman named Bree Newsome are all united in opposition to the Confederate flag."
The statement continues, "Ms. Newsome temporarily removed the flag flying in front of South Carolina’s state house. As well as supporting the permanent removal of the flag legislatively, we commend the courage and moral impulse of Ms. Newsome as she stands for justice like many NAACP activists including Henry David Thoreau, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and numerous Americans who have engaged in civil disobedience. The NAACP calls on state prosecutors to consider the moral inspiration behind the civil disobedience of this young practitioner of democracy. Prosecutors should treat Ms. Newsome with the same large-hearted measure of justice that inspired her actions. The NAACP stands with our youth and behind the multigenerational band of activists fighting the substance and symbols of bigotry, hatred and intolerance."
The flag was put back within hours of Newsome and Tyson's arrest, sparking another hashtag, #keepitdown. It remains to be seen if the activists will be charged.
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(Photos: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)