She was arrested on June 27, 2015, for taking down a Confederate battle flag that was displayed on the grounds of the South Carolina State House in direct action. Newsome, age 30, while scaling the 30-foot pole, was hailed by policemen who told her to get down. She responded, “In the name of Jesus, this flag has to come down. You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today.”As she descended the pole and lowered the flag into the arms of awaiting policemen, she announced she was prepared to be arrested. Newsome and a man who police said was helping her, James Ian Tyson, were arrested. Onlookers applauded Newsome’s efforts as she was being cuffed. As she was led away she recited the 23rd Psalm from the Bible. The flag was raised again 45 minutes later.
Both activists were charged with defacing monuments on capitol grounds and taken to Richland County Jail. The misdemeanor crime is punishable by a fine or a maximum jail sentence of three years. A judge set a $3,000 bond for each.By late afternoon, a crowdfunding campaign had raised over $60,000 for her bail. Filmmaker Michael Moore also offered on Twitter to pay her bail and legal fees.Todd Rutherford, the minority leader of the state House of Representatives, will represent Newsome in court.NAACP chapter president Reverend Doctor William Barber II applauded Newsome’s action, comparing it to those of Rosa Parks and other icons of the civil rights movement.Colette Gaiter, an associate professor of art and social change at the University of Delaware, whose writing was republished by Time magazine, called the act “a significant piece of socially engaged performance art”.Newsome’s actions were criticized by several SC State legislators who said they were in favor of the flag’s removal, but illegal actions like Newsome’s could hurt their goal to have the flag permanently removed.Calls for the flag’s removal have been on the increase since the murder of nine people in the Charleston church shooting of June 17.
On July 2nd, 2015 Newsome and Tyson were interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, where they talked at length about their motivations for taking down the flag, and their subsequent arrest. Later that evening she was a guest on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore where she drank mint juleps with Wilmore (a follow up to an earlier parody of South Carolina lawmakers “talking about talking about” removing the flag while drinking the same thing). Wilmore presented Newsome with the “Bree Newsome Award” and posed some potential superhero names for her; “The Ascender” and “Queen Bree.”
“I think the proper superhero name is Bree Newsome,”—Larry Wilmore
A vote on the presence of the flag took place among South Carolina’s House of Representatives on July 9th, which resulted in the final removal of the flag the following Friday.