The flag was raised over the Capitol in 1962 as a racist symbol of defiance to the civil rights movement and calls for racial desegregation. I recall in 2000 when it was moved from the dome of the state building to the lawn, which I considered shameful even then.

It was the quibbling over whether to lower the flag in the wake of the Charleston Massacre that led to my decision to scale the pole. The action was a group effort and everyone who participated did it for similar reasons. I also had deeply personal reasons — my fourth great grandparents were enslaved in South Carolina and my family has been victimized by racial terror on more than one occasion.

At one point, the police threatened to tase me. James Tyson, who was later arrested with me, grabbed the pole and told them that if they electrocuted me they would have to electrocute him too. Others who were standing around watching yelled at the cops to not do it. So in the video when you see me frequently reassuring the police that the action is non-violent civil disobedience, this is why.

I was in an intense state of peace during the action. My activism is indeed informed by my faith in Jesus Christ who was “sent to set the oppressed free."

I firmly believe that we are all children of God created equally. I consider myself to be following not only in the footsteps of freedom fighters, but also in the footsteps of the first Christians who often faced imprisonment in the course of spreading the gospel and acting upon prophetic faith.

— As told to Demetria Irwin

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