Local residents join petition for Bree Newsome

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— The online petitions are as direct as Bree Newsome proved to be strong.

Donations have been pouring in from across the country and around the world for Newsome who last month made headlines when she scaled a 30-foot pole in Columbia, South Carolina and removed the Confederate flag in the wake of hate-filled shooting at a historic black church left nine African Americans dead.

“We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continues to fly above their caskets,” Newsome said.

She and a white man, James Tyson, were arrested after the incident on June 27, 2015.

They were both charged with defacing monuments on state capitol grounds and each face up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

But, several online petitions, one that’s already raised approximately $100,000 for Newsome and Tyson’s defense, have called on charges to be dismissed against the pair.

The petitions have been signed by individuals as far away as Japan. Residents in the Baltimore area have also signed petitions, including at act.colorofchange.org.

“What Bree Newsome did was as heroic and courageous as anything we’ve seen in years, probably decades,” said Leslie Hudnell.

“She doesn’t deserve jail; she should get a medal and a parade.”

Tina Knight, another Baltimore area resident, said Newsome did what many others probably wanted to do but were too afraid.

“Big [congratulations] to her, a lot of folks probably wanted to do the same but she’s the one who showed she had the guts to do it,” Knight said.

As noted on the petition, Newsome’s actions follow “a growing trend of prosecutors from Oakland to Baltimore and across the country overcharging people who take non-violent direct action in defense of black lives.”

Newsome, an activist and filmmaker from Charleston, North Carolina, and Tyson were part of a multiracial group of Carolinians led by teachers and activists determined to take down the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds in South Carolina.

The petition noted that within an hour state workers had raised the hateful banner once again in time for an 11 a.m. white supremacist rally.

“The Confederate flag was born out of a government defending the enslavement of black people and resurrected as an emblem for whites violently opposing racial integration. Any government that recognizes the flag is declaring that it cherishes a history of racial terror,” petitioners noted.

“It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality,” Newsome told reporters following her release on bail.

When asked about a recent poll that suggested most people see the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride, Newsome told CNN that the mentality shows that people need to be better educated about the history of the Civil War.

She hoped her actions and those of the state, which had a black worker put the flag back up about half an hour later, draw attention to a moral dilemma.

“It’s a moment for society to do a gut check of our values,” Newsome said.

On her Facebook page, Newsome noted that she is a western North Carolina field organizer for Ignite NC, which protests voter laws it sees as discriminatory.

After she finishes doing her round of media interviews, she told CNN, she’ll go back to the same thing she was doing before her time on the flagpole and in the spotlight.

“The work continues until we are no longer in a place of being dependent on institutions and systems that don’t value our lives,” Newsome said.

Editor’s Note: South Carolina’s state Senate passed a bill to remove the Civil War Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 by 36-3 vote. The bill will now go to the South Carolina House of Representatives. The flag has flown on the Capitol grounds for over 50 years.