SC Secessionist Party flies Confederate Flags in downtown Charleston

Source: Live 5
Source: Live 5

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Secessionist Party and the Carolina Flaggers are flying Confederate Flags across downtown Charleston.

The groups are protesting the College of Charleston's decision to host Bree Newsome as a speaker Wednesday.

Newsome was arrested for climbing the flag pole at the South Carolina State House to take down the Confederate Flag in June of 2015. This came after the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting, when nine black parishioners were shot and killed in what was determined to be a hate crime.

There were different reactions when the Confederate Flag officially came down at the State House.

Paul Garbarini, who opposed the flag, said he was cheering.

A supporter of the flag and a member of the S.C. Secessionist Party, Braxton Spivey had another thought.

"I very much like to see it back up at the State House," Spivey said.

The party members say they don't want Newsome speaking at a public college funded by state taxpayers.

"I take it very seriously — it's the flag my ancestors fought under," Spivey said, "I guess it runs deep in my blood because I don't mind standing up and fighting for what I believe in."

In response, the group decided to mount Confederate Flags across downtown Charleston, what they're calling a "Grand Flagging." They are displaying the flags from a flagpole mounted from their trucks at the top of parking garages.

The group was met with opposition.

Charles Chandler flew an Anarchist Flag next to one of the Confederate Flags.

"It even hurt me to my core to know they would do this kind of action here," Chandler said. He's a current student at the College of Charleston and plans to attend Newsome's talk.

Paul Garbarini is part of the group 'Standing Up for Racial Justice.' He counter-protested the Confederate Flags from Marion Square.

"I'm a great grandson of a Confederate Veteran. That cause represents something that was a peculiar institution," Garbarini said.  It represents white supremacy and I have to fight that."

Counter-protesters representing various groups gathered around Marion Square. Some were holding signs that read "we will not tolerate hate," "black lives matter," and "stand against racism."

The chair of the S.C. Secessionist Party says just about every weekend since the Confederate Flag came down at the state house, the group mounts a flag near the Battery to show their support and talk with others about it.

James Bessenger is the chair of the Secessionist Party.

"I do understand why people feel the way they do. They've been told to feel that way," Bessenger said. "To me that flag has nothing to do with race."

Amara Britt opposed the flag and was protesting as well.

"I understand that you feel it is heritage but when your heritage has hurt so many people and their descendants," Britt said.

Photos released of convicted Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof with the Confederate Flag.

"I'm sorry for those families. I'm sorry for any individual that is shot by somebody that has an ill mind, but the flag didn't do it," Spivey said.

The group is also calling for the flag to be displayed in the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in the state. It's currently being stored in a box.

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