COLUMBIA — For five hours Monday, the Confederate battle flag flew again at the South Carolina Statehouse.
The S.C. Secessionist Party brought back the Civil War banner on the second anniversary of when it was removed from the Statehouse grounds in the wake of the Charleston Emanuel AME Church shooting, where nine black worshippers were killed by a self-avowed white supremacist.
Confederate re-enactors raised the flag at 10 a.m. on a portable pole placed next to the Confederate Soldier Monument along Gervais Street — the same spot where the banner flew for 15 years before coming down by act of the state Legislature.
The rebel banner had flown over the Statehouse dome since the early 1960s before being moved next to the monument as part of a compromise that added an African-American monument on the grounds.
Monday's event drew about 20 protesters standing along Gervais Street near the rally. No arrests were reported.
From behind barricades set up by police, protester Ben Byrdic used a bullhorn to shout as the flag rose: "You lost then, and you're going to lose again. Go home, Confederates," he said.
The protester's shouts were drowned out by yells and cheers from about 100 flag supporters as the battle flag reached the top of the portable pole. But Byrdic carried on.
"Your ugly flag is no longer required," he said. "The slaves are free."
State Secessionist Party founder James Bessenger said the event was meant to remind South Carolinians their voice wasn't heard in the debate to remove the flag.
"It was a knee-jerk reaction," he said.
The party has stepped up its efforts to get noticed, including through a painting squabble over a landmark abandoned boat near Folly Beach last month.
The Secessionists also are protesting that the final Confederate flag removed from the Statehouse two years ago is not on display at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia. The flag remains in storage while lawmakers continue to deliberate how to display it. A $3.6 million display proposal was rejected last year.
The banner was furled at about 3 p.m., with some of the handful of Confederate flag enthusiasts still in attendance saying they couldn't bear to see it come down.
"I can't watch," one woman said as she walked away.
About 40 law enforcement officers were on hand at the the rally. The Secessionist group also brought along members of a local "militia" group to help keep order. No confrontations were reported.