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CNN Today

Anti-Confederate Flag Rally Held in Columbia, South Carolina

Aired January 17, 2000 - 4:01 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: It is, of course, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The murdered civil rights' leader's life was steeped in controversy even today. The day honoring his birth is the backdrop for another controversy in Columbia, South Carolina. The issue is the Confederate flag. Opponents want it to stop flying above the state capitol. Supporters say it's a symbol of their heritage.

CNN's Brian Cabell is in Columbia, where an anti-flag rally was held.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): For 38 years, the Confederate battle flag has flown over the capitol dome here in Columbia, South Carolina. Today, thousands of people marched in the street, saying it's time finally for that flag to come down.

Demonstrators say perhaps 50,000 people were out here in the streets and at the capitol grounds. Police say it's more like 25,000 people. In any case, a large crowd. No violence reported. A few incidents, nothing serious amid very heavy security. But the message from speaker after speaker was very clear: the flag has to come down.

KWEISI MFUME, NAACP PRESIDENT: We come to say to the state of South Carolina that bigotry, racism and racist symbols, whether a Confederate flag or a burning cross, will not be allowed to go unchallenged.

CABELL: For the last six or seven months the NAACP has called for a tourism boycott of South Carolina. Apparently it's been fairly effective so far. Tourism officials tell us millions of dollars have been lost so far to the economy of South Carolina.

The legislature now is trying to work for a solution to this crisis. The governor is trying to mediate the crisis, but so far to little effect. So the boycott continues here in South Carolina. The conflict of the Confederate battle flag continues as well.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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