In the two months since a racially-motivated gunman walked into a predominately-black Charleston church and murdered nine parishioners on June 17, there have been at least 173 rallies and protests across the nation in support of the divisive symbol the gunman adopted as his own: the Confederate battle flag. That works out to an average of a little under three pro-Confederate rallies per day.
The Charleston shootings prompted a nationwide discussion over the meaning of the flag and its place in public life. Many Americans—including those who had supported the flag in the past—came to the conclusion that its proper place was in a museum, not as a symbol of government. But in turn, the flag's supporters have held dozens of protests and rallies in support of what they see as a symbol of pride and Southern heritage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking these flag rallies this summer, using data from other human rights groups, news reports, and social media postings by rally organizers to arrive at those numbers. All told they estimate that at least 23,000 people have attended a pro-flag rally this summer, although of course some of the more passionate protestors likely attend multiple rallies.
The largest rally so far was held in Ocala, Florida, in mid-July, in support of a county's decision to return a Confederate flag to a position on government property. It drew an estimated crowd of 5,000 people, as well as reports of sporadic gunfire. Other big rallies include a crowd of 4,000 in North Carolina, and the 2,000 supporters of a KKK rally held in Charleston in July.
A common refrain of Confederate flag supporters is that the flag is about heritage, not hate. But historians of the South, as well as political scientists who study the motivations of people who wave the flag, generally dispute this claim. And a number of rallies tracked by the SPLC include the involvement of known hate groups, like the Klan, the Aryan Nations, and the League of the South.
The state of Virginia has seen the most flag rallies so far, with 23. Texas comes in second with 19. There have been 17 rallies in Alabama and 16 each in Georgia and Florida. While rallies have been overwhelmingly concentrated in the South, they have been held as far north as Sandusky Michigan, and as far west as Redmond, Oregon. A total of 22 states have seen a pro-Confederate flag rally this summer.
Overall the rallies in the South, and the thousands of people who have attended them, are a reminder that the flag still has its boosters. There are at least 20 more pro-flag rallies planned between now and the end of the year, including one in the nation's capital.
You can see details on each rally in SPLC's map, below.