Pro-Confederate flag protesters made their presence known at the NCAA Tournament in South Carolina.
The protesters arrived at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Sunday and raised the Confederate battle flag from the back of a pickup truck ABC News reported.
The protesters planned to stay throughout the tournament, though police had them move the flag 50 feet, citing safety concerns.
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South Carolina banned the flag after Dylann Roof murdered nine churchgoers in a predominately black church in June 2015.
Roof was photographed with the flag in pictures released after the horrific crime.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin asked people to not judge all South Carolinians by the actions of some, after his team defeated No. 2 Duke 88 – 81 on Sunday.
Solid work, South Carolina. Literally waving over the arena. pic.twitter.com/ozphmhergW
— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) March 19, 2017
Confederate flag raised outside tournament arena in S.C. Protesters say they want NCAA to know “we’re still here” https://t.co/R7iMgbvZsj pic.twitter.com/a9R4tDtS1i
— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) March 19, 2017
“Our state’s progressive. Our state has incredible people (who are) about moving forward,” Martin said. “But it’s America. We have freedoms. People have freedoms to do whatever they want to do with themselves and their property.”
An interesting stance as many have judged all supporters of the flag by the actions of one man.
Someone put up a Confederate Flag on a pole at parking deck beside the arena where NCAA games are being played in Greenville, SC…@WFMY pic.twitter.com/0I98ZnnST2
— Brian Hall (@bhallwfmy) March 19, 2017
A point made by protester Hunter Meadows, who said he had family that fought for the Confederacy.
“I didn’t feel it was right when the flag came down,” he said. “We wanted to show the NCAA that we’re still here.”
Some people here in Greenville flying the Confederate flag on a parking deck next to the NCAA games. pic.twitter.com/y46W58mWrs
— ABC11Charlie Mickens (@GameDayCharlie) March 19, 2017
The NCAA responded to the protest in a statement to ESPN.
“The NCAA is proud and excited to host championships in the state of South Carolina once again,” the NCAA’s Dan Gavitt said. “We are committed to assuring that all events are safe and accessible to all. No symbols that compromise that commitment will be permitted to be displayed on venue property that the tournament controls. Freedom of speech activities on public property in areas surrounding the arena are managed by the city of Greenville and we are supportive of the city’s efforts.”
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The NCAA is no stranger to political controversy.
It originally had the tournament scheduled to take place in North Carolina but moved it because of the law that prevented transgendered men from going into women’s facilities.
The protest came after a white couple were given harsh sentences for terrorizing black families with the flag and firearms.
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