Summerville Man Plans Protest Of Confederate Groups On Thursday

 

By Brenda Rindge
May 9, 2017

 

A Summerville man upset that a Confederate history group handed out flags at this year’s Flowertown Festival hopes to gather supporters Thursday.

 

Louis Smith, founder of the nonprofit Community Resource Center, plans to hold a rally at 4 p.m. Thursday in the town’s historic Hutchinson Square on Main Street. About 25 social justice groups have endorsed the cause, he said.

 

“This is a major demonstration against the South Carolina Secessionist Party because of the recent flaggings,” Smith said. “We want to tell them clearly that we do not want this ever again in our town.”

 

Smith has a special event permit for an event Thursday called “Celebrating Unity in the Park,” according to town officials.

 

Secessionist Party members will not attend the rally, Chairman James Bessenger said Tuesday.

 

“We aren’t even going to acknowledge his little protest,” Bessenger said. “He’s trying to get some attention by hoping to jeopardize the constitutional rights of other people.”

 

On April 9, after Smith complained that the Sons of Confederate Veterans handed out miniature flags at the festival, the party staged a “flagging” of the town by waving Confederate battle flags from the U.S. Highway 17A overpass of Interstate 26.

 

The SCV was not an official part of the festival but had set up a tent on private property nearby. Smith said members wandered onto public property to hand out the flags, a claim the group disputes.

 

After the rally Thursday, participants will march across West Richardson Avenue to attend the Town Council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. Smith said he plans to ask council to reprimand the SCV and said he expects about 20 people to speak on his behalf during the public comment period.

 

Town officials have said the town has nothing to do with the festival, which is run by the Summerville Family YMCA.

 

“When (the Sons of Confederate Veterans) were told that they were not allowed at the festival by the Y, they went onto private property, and that we don’t mind,” Smith said. “But when they stepped off and began giving out Confederate memorabilia, they overstepped their bounds.”

 

Bessenger said Secessionist Party members plan to attend the Council meeting but may not speak.

 

The party plans to hand out 1,500 miniature flags in Summerville and Charleston in coming weeks and is looking for “land in Summerville on which to erect a large permanent Confederate flag,” he said.

 

© 2017, Post and Courier

 

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