By Laura WilliamsCharleston, South Carolina (Reuters) – The photo-journalists who have long taken photos of the Confederate flag were among the first to demand that the White House clarify its handling of the flag and its historical significance after President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was rescinding a federal rule that had protected the flag’s historic significance.
The move was widely seen as a thinly veiled threat to the photographers, whose work has been featured in national publications including the New York Times and Time magazine.
They were among dozens of photographers, including many who are African American, who gathered on a national day of mourning in Charleston to call on the president to reverse the decision.
They said they felt emboldened by the flag being flown at half-staff in the city and the news of its impending removal from the grounds of the state capitol building.
They said the flag is a symbol of black oppression, the Confederacy and the U.S. government’s complicity in racism.
It’s also a symbol for white supremacy and a symbol that needs to be taken down, said the photographers and others who participated in a gathering of nearly 500 in a parking lot near the State House.
They included the Charleston Post and Courier, a local paper, which has a white-owned newspaper in the Charleston area.
The photographers and other organizers say the flag has a history of racist use, particularly among black protesters and some whites, and they have repeatedly spoken out against the president’s decision.
Trump on Thursday issued an executive order that directs federal agencies to “revisit and rededicate” the flag to the Confederacy as part of a broader effort to remove Confederate symbols from public buildings and memorials.
The order did not specifically mention the flag or its symbolism.
The president’s order also directs agencies to rescind or modify policies and procedures to prevent racial bias in hiring, hiring practices and promotions.
The news of the rescission came as the state of South Carolina, which had refused to remove the Confederate battle flag from its capitol grounds, issued a notice of its intention to do so in the coming days.
That action drew a swift rebuke from the American Civil Liberties Union, which said the state had not yet acted to undo the flag.
The group also called for the federal government to take action on the flag, which it said is the symbol of the Confederacy.
The Charleston Post-Bulletin, a South Carolina newspaper owned by the Charleston newspaper group, said on Twitter on Thursday that the newspaper was rescissioning its editorial standards.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(Reporting by Laura Williams; Editing by David Gregorio)