NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II’s Statement
in Support of the Non-Violent Direct Action this Morning in Columbia
COLUMBIA, SC – Sister Bree Newsome, in an act of prayerful non-violent civil disobedience, scaled the flagpole in front of the South Carolina Capitol, disengaged the flag of the Confederate States of America, and then prayed as she descended the pole and was arrested . . .
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the NC NAACP, said: “Our sister from North Carolina, Bree Newsome, is a committed, trained, non-violent messenger of the truth. She stands in a long tradition. The Hebrew midwives who stood up to Pharoah; Jeremiah who put on an iron yoke in defiance of a king and unfit practices; Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and more recently hundreds of protesters in Moral Monday who were all considered, at first, criminals for their acts of conscience. We stand in solidarity with her, and the deep commitment which she has to justice, love, and true inter-racial community. We stand with her as she is our family.”
Ms. Newsome said from jail: “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”
“She is clear and sober,” Rev. Dr. Barber said. “The flag is vulgar. Its removal is not only a small step, but an important symbolic one. Its vulgarity and representation of the racist, immoral defense of all slavery and Jim Crow not only should come down but should have never been put up. Many around the country are so hurt and disturbed that the American flag and the state flag could be lowered to honor the Emanuel Nine, but not the Confederate war flag. Shameful.
Instead of trying to criminalize her, hear what her action of conscience is saying as the old saints use to say “Waiting time is over. Let’s get right now.” I believe her action and that of many others is saying: If America is serious about this moment we cannot just cry ceremonial tears while at the same time refusing to support the martyred reverend and his parishioners’ stalwart fight against the racism that gave birth to the crime.”
“The perpetrator has been caught, but the killers are still at large. Actions are challenging the schizophrenia of American morality that allows political leaders to condemn the crime but embrace the policies that are its genesis,” Rev. Dr. Barber continued.
“I believe her action is another nonviolent action of grace that should arrest and imprison our conscience. We must see that one urgently required step toward real healing is a new comprehensive Civil Rights Act for this time and a renewal of the Voting Rights Act.
We cannot wait for further martyrs, more bloodshed, the continued weight of our national grief. Legislation will not heal all trauma, prevent all pains–it never has—but it is a necessity today to place our government on the right side of history–the side that refuses to perpetuate the legacy and vestiges of white supremacy and black subjugation that is our nation’s inheritance.”
“We must write an omnibus bill in the name of the nine Emanuel martyrs that implements Medicaid expansion, raises public education funding, passes a living wage requirement, passes new gun control laws, and removes the Confederate flag from the state house, among other provisions. And this omnibus bill would be supported and passed by Republicans and Democrats.
Further, the very seat Rev. Pinckney held is in jeopardy as long as Section 5 of the VRA remains gutted. The current bill in the U.S. House, even if passed, would leave out Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee from coverage. If we want to move toward closure, name a VRA restoration bill after the Emanuel Nine and all the other martyrs in the fight for voting rights.”
“The Emanuel Nine Martyrs have set loose a spirit of non-violent action that will not stop until real policy changes are seen,” said Rev. Barber.
Click HERE to watch video of Bree Newsome protesting the NC voter suppression law in the office of then-Speaker Thom Tillis.
The NAACP, formed in 1909, is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the U.S. Its members are the consciences of their communities on civil rights. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches, formed 70 years ago, has grown to over 100 Adult, Youth and College branches. With the consistent support of 170 partners in the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) Coalition, it was the Moral Monday/Forward Together Moral Movement architect