GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP/WNCN) – A small group of protesters flew a large Confederate flag from the top of a parking garage next to the arena where two men’s NCAA Tournament games are being played.
The group arrived Sunday morning, raising the flag from the back of a pickup truck. They said they planned to stay throughout the games and be on grounds as fans arrived at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Another sidewalk gathering which had at least five Confederate flags was also spotted near the area on Sunday afternoon. Several vehicles also drove past the arena with Confederate flags attached to their SUVs and pickup trucks.
Protesters say they hope to make their presence known to the NCAA. The governing body lifted its ban against South Carolina holding championships in 2015.
The NCAA pulled playoff games out of North Carolina after House Bill 2 was approved.
Some who had flags along a sidewalk were later told by Greenville city officials that their flag poles were not authorized. The city said that the poles must not exceed 6 inches in length and not be made of metal.
The group walked away and said they would return with the corrected flag poles.
In 2002, the NAACP held a march in downtown Greenville to protest the state flying the flag on Statehouse grounds during the NCAA regionals at the arena.
On Sunday, North Carolina plays Arkansas followed by Duke against South Carolina.
Later Sunday afternoon, the NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt issued this statement:
“The NCAA is proud and excited to host championships in the state of South Carolina once again. We are committed to assuring that our events are safe and accessible to all. No symbols that compromise that commitment will be permitted to be displayed on venue property that the tournament controls. Freedom of speech activities on public property in areas surrounding the arena are managed by the city of Greenville and we are supportive of the city’s efforts.”
— WSPA contributed to this report