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A man carries the Confederate flag outside the Senate Chamber on Wednesday. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Rev. Rob Lee, a descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, says the presence of the Confederate flag inside the U.S. Capitol this week was an "attack on democracy."

Why it matters: Historians say the flag — a symbol of white supremacy and racial segregation — never entered the Capitol with such fanfare during the Civil War. It was seen many times Wednesday in possession of white rioters who waved it without interference from police.

What he's saying: "A flag of treasonous and seditious movement entered our Capitol, and that was an attack on our democracy," Lee, a pastor at Unifour Church in Newton, North Carolina, told Axios.

  • While the searing image may embolden racists, it could also invigorate activists in their efforts to remove Confederate symbols from military bases and public buildings and spaces, said Lee, who speaks out against racism.

Flashback: “When people proudly had their Confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag. It represents the South. They like the South,” President Trump said in July.

  • He also criticized NASCAR’s ban of the Confederate flag from its events, and he attacked the plans to remove the names of Confederate generals from military bases.

The big picture: The Confederate flag-waving and the looting of the Capitol occurred in a building built by enslaved African Americans, according to Jesse Holland, a Black journalist who wrote a book about hidden African American history in the nation's capital.

  • Holland said the use of the flag at the Capitol and the riot was a reaction to the growing political power of African Americans and other people of color in the U.S.
  • Now the Confederate flag "has been used as a symbol of insurrection for the second time in the last 200 years," Holland said. "It shook my very core."

Go deeper

After impeachment, Trump says he "unequivocally" condemns U.S. Capitol violence

Photo: MANDEL NGAN via Getty

President Trump condemned political violence in a video Wednesday evening exactly one week after a pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol in a deadly siege, and hours after the House voted to impeach him for a second time.

Why it matters: The video, posted to the White House's official Twitter account, came as the president faces an impeachment trial in the Senate after 10 Republicans voted with House Democrats for impeachment.

Updated 22 mins ago - World

Ukraine crisis: Blinken to visit Kyiv, then meet Russian foreign minister

Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, following a trip to Kyiv to reinforce U.S. support for Ukraine in the face of a possible Russian invasion, according to a senior U.S. official.

Why it matters: The meeting with Lavrov suggests a diplomatic resolution to the crisis may still be on the table, despite the collapse of security talks between Russia and the West last week.

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull — CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer — Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines.
  2. Vaccines: Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — America's vaccination drive runs out of gas.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  5. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  6. Variant tracker

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