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CNN Today

Demonstrators March on South Carolina Capital to Protest Presence of Confederate Flag

Aired January 17, 2000 - 2:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: If you have today off, it is probably because of the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. King's birthday, which was this past Saturday, is observed as a federal holiday today. A wreath was laid a short time ago at King's crypt in Atlanta. Supporters of the King holiday say the best way to honor his legacy is by using the day to promote volunteerism and civic responsibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Martin Luther King Jr., more than any other American of the 20th century, had the power to bring more people together to do good, black and white, Protestant, Catholic and Jews. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message was love, his weapon was truth, his method was creative nonviolence, his goal was to be a loving community, a community at peace with itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: South Carolina is the only state that does not recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a permanent state holiday, but there is activity today in the state. A large march in the capital protests the presence of the Confederate battle flag over the statehouse. Many African Americans see it as a cruel reminder of slavery and segregation.

Bob Buckley of affiliate WGHP is in Columbia, South Carolina covering the demonstration -- Bob.

BOB BUCKLEY, WGHP REPORTER (voice-over): Well, just after 2:00 local time, this has been going on for more than three hours.

You know, the people here -- the police said they expected more than 20,000 people to attend. And although there's no official count yet, they may well have gotten that. People are here from all the surrounding states to see what you just mentioned.

Up on top of the statehouse dome here, you'll see three flags: The U.S. flag is on top, the official state flag, the Palmetto, is second, and on the bottom is the Confederate battle flag.

Now, when you look at this rally, the word that comes to mind is "vast." It spreads over several blocks surrounding the state capitol, people listening to speeches that keep coming back to one theme: that you can call the Confederate battle flag either a symbol of hatred or a piece of heritage, but the speakers here say today it doesn't belong on a statehouse that is supposed to represent all of its citizens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUIS WARING, PROTESTER: I just feel exuberant about the fact that we have this kind of turnout, but I'm saddened that our state is still in that quagmire whereby they refuse to change, and that's regrettable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Now, we talked to a lot of the protesters and asked them: Do they have a problem with the flag itself or just where it sits atop the statehouse? And they all said they don't have a problem with someone flying it on their personal property or putting it in a museum, they just feel it does not belong in a public place, like on top of this statehouse -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Bob, what about overall in the state? Have they done polls and asked people how many would like it taken down from the capitol, how many would like to see it stay?

BUCKLEY: The figures that I have heard is 57 percent of the people would like to see it come down. So you've got a majority there. But, now, the governor is not taking sides in this. Jim Hodges says he wants to be a mediator and wants to take both the pro- and anti-flag people, get them together and figure out some type of compromise through this thing.

ALLEN: Bob Buckley of affiliate WGHP reporting from South Carolina, thanks.

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