CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A few groups gathered at the Confederate Defenders statue in downtown Charleston on Sunday morning. Braxton Spivey, with the group Flags Across the South, has stood at the statue nearly every Sunday for five years.
“My agenda, from the first time I’ve come up here, was to educate,” Spivey said. “I disagreed with the flag coming down from behind the soldier’s monument at the Statehouse. I feel like that was an appropriate place for it.”
For the past few weeks, people with Black Lives Matter have come to The Battery to protest the statue and those carrying the Confederate flags.
“We stand in opposition to these white supremacists tributes, we want them down in this city,” Mika Gadsden said while standing across the street on The Battery wall. “We want the City of Charleston to recognize its history and honor its history with more accurate historical representations.”
Police tried to keep the two groups separated, especially after social media reports hinted that both pro and anti-flag protesters might show up Sunday armed with weapons. That prompted the police department to send out a news release warning that officers will enforce a law that prohibits anyone from threatening someone with a weapon. A group called Light Foot Militia was also there in a semi-circle around the Confederate monument and those carrying Confederate flags.
“I’ve tried to speak to them when they first started coming out here,” Spivey said about the protesters. “To try to explain, we’re not racist and the Confederate solider was not racist. They won’t fight in a battle to keep people enslaved, that’s not what the war was about. But they don’t like facts.”
When asked about her response to those who say the Confederacy is our country’s history, Gadsden said, “I think anyone with access to history knows what they’re supporting, that lost cause, that narrative, does not represent real history. It erases Gullah Geechee and Black history and heritage. So I think that’s a nice talking point, but honestly they’re here because they support hate, in my opinion.”
Spivey said he has seen more protesters out in the last few weeks.
“My concern when I’m here on the weekend is not about the death of George Floyd,” Spivey said. “Those people that stand over there, they want to take it to that level. Why? I don’t know. They know why I’m here. I’m not here to defend the police officer that may have done a wrong bodily move to have an effect on the death of George Floyd. I’m not here flying this flag and talking about the history of this country and trying to defend someone who may have been wrongfully killed by a police officer. I know there’s good and bad police officers just like there are good and bad people. But that’s not my job here.”
When asked what she’d like to see next, Gadsden said, “This needs to be the beginning of a more substantive conversation. We need to heighten the level of discourse around this Civil War iconography. We need to use this moment to bring about real substantive change. I don’t want the streets painted with Black Lives Matter, I want Black Lives Matter to be reflected in city policy. I want to see equity and I want to see the city take a firm stand against white supremacists iconography.”
While there was shouting, no other violence has been reported so far.