Brawl breaks out between Confederate flag supporters, opponents

Reuters / Jason Miczek
Fistfights broke out between two sides of the Confederate flag debate in front of the Columbia, South Carolina statehouse.

The brawl started around 7:15 pm on Monday when Confederate flag supporters arrived in about a dozen vehicles to counter the protests by supporters of the flag’s removal, Public Safety Department spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli said in a statement to CBS News.

Sydney Baldwin claims that the fight erupted when a protestor took his flag.

“I jumped out of my truck,” Baldwin said. “That was all I did, was grab my flag, and I got hit in the side.”

About 10 flag supporters clashed with 30 flag protestors. One man, Nicholas Thompson, 25, was arrested, though it’s unclear whether he was for or against the removal of the banner. Still more were injured in the ideological scuffle.

“The blood on my face, the blood in my teeth, the blood on my hands is no comparison to the Southern blood that runs through my veins,” Joe Linder told CBS, his face bloodied.

He insisted that “racism has no part” of the flag’s meaning.

“I’m gonna tell you one thing, I ain’t sitting down; this’ll just make me walk taller,” Linder continued.

About 50 police officers arrived at the scene to contain the clash. Two blocks in front of the Statehouse were closed for a short time because of the brawl.

The flag flies over a memorial to Confederate soldiers, but has recently become embroiled in controversy following a June 17 mass shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, another city in South Carolina. The perpetrator of the attack, Dylann Roof, revered the flag and posed with it in photographs posted online.

“That flag just does not deserve to fly at all in South Carolina and we want it down,” one of the Statehouse protestors told local TV station WLTX.

READ MORE: Woman arrested for removing Confederate flag from SC Capitol (VIDEO)

But some are taking matters into their own hands. On Saturday, African-American social justice activist Bree Newsome scaled the monument’s flagpole in climbing gear to remove the banner. She was taken into custody and the flag was replaced within an hour.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush voiced his support for the removal of the flag by legal means, saying that it’s time for South Carolina to say goodbye to the flag of Dixie.

“The symbols that have divided the South in many ways, the symbols that were used in most recent modern history, not at perhaps at the beginning of the time, but the symbols were racist,” he said.

The flag was introduced in South Carolina in 1962 as a symbol of defiance against federal attempts to desegregate public places. It was removed from the Statehouse dome and moved to a monument to the Confederate soldiers’ monument in 2000.