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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 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

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