The Confederate flag was lowered from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse today, ending its 54-year presence there and marking a stunning political reversal in a state where many thought the rebel banner would fly indefinitely. The crowd of thousands chanted "USA" and "hey, hey, hey, goodbye" as the flag was lowered by an honor guard of South Carolina troopers. Gov. Nikki Haley stood on the Statehouse steps and did not speak, though she nodded in the direction of the crowd after someone shouted: "Thank you governor." Two troopers rolled the flag and tied it up with a string and handed it to a trooper who brought it to the Statehouse steps and handed it to a state archivist. The governor clapped when it was handed to the archivist.
A van was to take the flag to the nearby Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. There, it eventually will be housed in a multimillion-dollar shrine lawmakers promised to build as part of a deal to get a bill passed removing the flag. The flag was raised over the South Carolina Capitol dome in 1961 to protest integration. It was moved in 2000 to the 30-foot flagpole in front of the Statehouse. Now, even that flagpole will be torn down, but no timetable is set on that. (Read more Confederate flag stories.)