SOUTH CAROLINA - (AP) The Confederate flag has been removed from a flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse, where it has had a presence for 54 years.

The rebel banner was taken down Friday morning by a Highway Patrol honor guard in a ceremony attended by thousands who cheered at the removal, many yelling "USA, USA" and "Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!"

A van will take the flag to a nearby museum, where it will be housed.

The reversal seemed unthinkable just a month ago. It comes after the June 17 massacre of nine black parishioners at a Charleston church. A white man is charged, and authorities say the killings were racially motivated. The shootings reignited calls to remove Confederate symbols across the country.

The Confederate flag was raised over the Capitol dome in 1961 to protest integration. It was moved in 2000 to a flagpole in front of the Statehouse.

The flagpole, too, will be torn down, but no timetable is set.