Tension builds in South Carolina town over Confederate ‘flagging’ events

Tension builds in South Carolina town over Confederate ‘flagging’ events (WCIV)

Tensions ran high in Summerville Thursday evening. The Confederate Flag, once again, was at the center of heated debate.

Several groups stormed into a town council meeting hours after the Community Resource Center held a rally in Hutchinson Square.

It started out peacefully, but it got ugly fast. Tension grew as the South Carolina Secessionist Party waved the flag across the street.

“For so long in the minority communities, we’ve been told to ignore them completely, what the heck, it’s only a flag, ignore it, but they have become beholden, they have taken this for a sign of weakness,” said Louis Smith, director of the CRC.

Thursday’s rally stems from anger after the Sons of Confederate Veterans handed out confederate flags at the Flowertown Festival a few weeks back and similar tension over the flag's proposed display in Holly Hill, S.C.

“We ask the town of Summerville to issue a statement of reprimand and disassociation with that organization that disrespected us all,” Smith said to council members.

“This is Flowertown and the fragrance that comes from flowers is beautiful and we don’t want that tainted with the pungent smell of racism or hatred from white people or black people,” said a pastor.

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the S.C Secessionist Party said their message is largely misunderstood. The council heard from them, as well.

“We don’t seek publicity. We don’t have racists in our organization,” said a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “We don’t care for racism, it’s not part of our charter, if you would take the time to read about you, you can read it and understand it.”

After hearing both sides, Mayor Wiley Johnson had enough and asked police to escort the groups out of the building.

“Freedom of speech is very important but I am not going to let that bully what’s going on in this council,” Johnson said.

Members of the South Carolina Secessionist Party have been holding what they call "flagging" events all over the Lowcountry of South Carolina for several months. In February members of the group hung flags at several locations in downtown Charleston. The group dubbed that "Grand Flagging" a response to College of Charleston hosting Bree Newsome for a discussion on race and cultural issues.

Newsome was the woman who climbed the pole on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia and removed the Confederate flag a week after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church. She was arrested, but charges were later dropped.

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