Sons of Confederate Veterans asked to remove signs
By PRENTISS FINDLAY
The Post and Courier

MOUNT PLEASANT – The local NAACP wants the town’s Sons of Confederate Veterans to take down their signs on U.S. 17 South and Coleman Boulevard because they feature an image of the Confederate battle flag.

"The Confederate flag is a symbol of oppression to the black man. I’ve gotten calls from folks coming into town wanting to know, ‘Why do we have the Confederate flag welcoming people into town?’ " said Rev. Arthur Pinckney, president of the East Cooper branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Randy Burbage, South Carolina division commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the group will have its state convention in the town March 16-17 at Alhambra Hall. During the gathering, a memorial service will be held at the Confederate Cemetery on Carr Street.

"We are a civic organization just like Rotary Club and everybody else," Burbage said.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans have a sign that motorists see when coming off the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge just past the intersection of Coleman and Patriots Point boulevards. The sign is next to markers for civic clubs such as Rotary, Sertoma and Kiwanis.

Pinckney disagreed with the notion that Sons of Confederate Veterans is like any other civic club because the group image is the Confederate battle flag, which he said offends blacks. "I would join Rotary or Sertoma. But I wouldn’t join the Sons of Confederate Veterans," he said.

The state Sons of Confederate Veterans says on its Web site that it is not a hate group. "Loving the South and defending its culture, symbols and heritage does not mean hate."

Pinckney contacted the town about how the NAACP feels about the Sons of Confederate Veterans signs. Town Administrator Mac Burdette noted that Town Hall is not flying the Confederate battle flag. The Sons of Confederate Veterans met the same criteria as other groups that post civic organization signs, he said. If the town denied the Sons of Confederate Veterans signs, "more than likely there could be a legal issue as to being arbitrary and capricious," he said.

Burdette said there’s been no evidence brought to the town’s attention that the Sons of Confederate Veterans is disrespectful to blacks.

"I have not seen anything that makes me think the Sons of Confederate Veterans are involved in any hate issues," he said.

The town’s chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans meets on the third Thursday of the month at The Point Grill. It participates in events that fund cancer and autism research and the Adopt-A-Highway program, according to its Web site. For the past two years, it has won second place in the town’s Christmas parade.

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