COLUMBIA, S.C. — Protesters gathered in Downtown Columbia on Saturday to denounce the Confederate and other controversial statues at the State House.
While speaking to the cheering crowd, Lalo Bellamy shouted, “We’re going to see these statues come down. We’re going to see them fall, baby!”
Friday marked the five-year anniversary of the Confederate flag being removed from the State House grounds. Protesters celebrated the anniversary for a second day and say it’s time for Confederate statues to be removed too.
Though not a Confederate statue, one protester spoke to the crowd specifically about Ben Tillman, whose statue is on the front of the State House along Gervais Street. “[Tillman] wanted to codify a system by which blacks could be excluded from the democratic process in the state of South Carolina,” he says.
Tillman – a South Carolina governor and US senator in the late 1800's and early 1900's – was pro-lynching and was also involved in the Hamburg Massacre, which led to the deaths of six African Americans.
His statue has stood outside the State House for 80 years. Protesters rallied for it to be removed.
“100% it needs to come down.” Bellamy says, “Because it’s at the state grounds and I pay a good amount of tax dollars. We all do and so I feel like for it to be here is not okay. [Confederate statues] are coming down all across the country so it’s crazy for ours to just stay up.”
South Carolina’s Heritage Act protects many statues from being taken down. Under the law, two-thirds vote by the General Assembly is required to remove certain ones in public areas.
“I urge you,” Bellamy says to lawmakers, “do what you gotta do to the Heritage Act so [the Tillman statue] can come down. Just do what’s right.”
State Representative Seth Rose introduced a resolution to remove the statue in June, but because of the rules of the General Assembly, they can’t debate it this year.
Protesters hope their demonstrations will inspire more lawmakers to denounce the statue and have it removed as soon as possible.