After much debate and intense pressure put on lawmakers since the June 17 Charleston, S.C., church massacre, a decadeslong fight over the Confederate flag came to an end Friday as two honor guard members removed the controversial symbol from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds in Columbia, causing the gathered crowd to erupt into cheers.
According to NBC News, 8,000 to 10,000 people were on the scene, with many of them screaming, "Take it down! Take it down!" as the guards walked toward the flagpole. Others yelled, "USA, USA," some broke out in song and everyone applauded during the 10-minute ceremony.
The removal of the flag comes after a half-century debate between those who see the emblem as the pride of the South and those who are reminded that the flag is the symbol of racism and slavery. The flag "was first raised above the South Carolina State House in Columbia to protest the civil rights movement in 1962," NBC News reports. "Since then, opponents […] have been campaigning to take it down."
According to the news site, several lawmakers witnessed the ceremony from the Statehouse steps, along with family members and friends of the nine worshippers who lost their lives after Dylann Roof allegedly opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Church. The emergence of several photos online showing Roof sporting the Confederate flag sparked a renewed nationwide debate about the flag.
On Thursday the state's House of Representatives voted to take the flag down after Gov. Nikki Haley gave an impassioned speech about why it must come down.
Once the flag was removed, President Barack Obama tweeted: "South Carolina taking down the confederate flag - a signal of good will and healing, and a meaningful step towards a better future."
Read more at NBC News.