takes Confederate flag flight to City Hall
The fight over a Confederate flag in one
South Carolina city has entered a new
battleground: the zoning department.
restaurant owner has filed a zoning
complaint over a Confederate flag that
continues to fly outside his eatery at a
prominent Orangeburg intersection not
far from South Carolina State University
and Claflin University — both
historically black colleges — and in a
county where African Americans make up
more than 60 percent of the population.
zoning appeal is the most recent
development in a feud between Edisto
River Creamery & Kitchen owner Tommy
Daras and members of the Sons of
Confederate Veterans, who maintain they
own a disputed cubicle-sized property
where the rebel flag pole stands.
Confederate flag and other monoliths
dedicated to the Confederacy, which have
come under more scrutiny since Dylann
Roof's racially-motivated murder of nine
black worshipers at the Emanuel AME
Church in Charleston.
photographed holding the Confederate
flag — an image that led the South
Carolina Legislature to vote shortly
after the June 2015 shooting to remove
the emblem from the Statehouse grounds.
November, Daras tried to hold a ceremony
to remove the Confederate flag next to
his restaurant, which he says keeps away
some customers. He was
stopped by two members of the
pro-Confederate group that
threatened to have him arrested for
of Confederate Veterans say they were
deeded the 0.003 acres of land where the
flag is displayed by Maurice Bessinger,
the former owner of the business
location and who was well known in South
Carolina for his barbecue chain and open
dissemination of white supremacist
literature at his Piggie Park
restaurants. The site has a small
monument next to the flag.
result, Daras, who purchased the
property for his business in 2015, is
now being represented for free by
attorney Justin Bamberg, a Democratic
member of the South Carolina House of
strongly-worded letter to the city,
Bamberg argues the bit of land the SCV
paid $11.10 in property taxes on last
year doesn't comply with the site's
business zoning requirements. He notes
the sliver of property isn't even large
enough to locate a business.
the South Carolina division commander
for the Sons of Confederate Veterans,
declined an interview for this story,
but he did say that the group would
respond to the zoning complaint.
Bessenger, the chairman of the separate
South Carolina Secessionist Party, said
his organization has been
boycotting Edisto River Creamery &
Kitchen, and he is skeptical that the
zoning appeal will be successful.
been grasping at straws for about a year
now," Bessenger said of Daras, who is
white. "It sounds like a backdoor
attempt to me."
says he wishes the Sons of Confederate
Veterans would have accepted Daras'
offer to replace the Confederate flag
with the first national flag of the
Confederate States of America, which
more closely resembles the American
flag. But the property owners have the
final say, he added.
(Sons of Confederate of Veterans) wants
to tell them to go to hell, they can do
that," Bessenger said.
past, the Sons of Confederate Veterans
has argued the continued display of the
rebel banner and accompanying monument
at the site were meant to stand as a
historical marker of a skirmish during
the Civil War, not as symbols of hate or
sees it differently. "As a society, in
general, we need to move forward," he
said Thursday. "The South lost the war,
and in no other country that I know of
is the loser of a war celebrated."
letter to the city, Bamberg argues that
people can understand the true intent of
that particular flag by looking at the
man who first put it there: the late
barbecue baron, who died in 2014,
Bamberg says, was "a well-documented
racist and hate-monger," and the only
reason he deeded part of the property to
the Sons of Confederate Veterans in
2005, Bamberg argues, was to continue
"his discriminatory and hateful legacy
property owners raised an even larger
Confederate flag at the site after
Roof's shooting rampage, Bamberg says
it's evident that the Sons of
Confederate Veterans' interest in the
property is only being used for
"discrimination, division, intimidation
and hate speech."
city's black residents, Bamberg says the
flag doesn't remind them of Southern
heritage. "To other people, it
represents some of the darkest days in
American history," he said.
Confederate symbols and monuments on
public display across the South,
including most recently New Orleans,
have been removed from public squares.
On Monday, the Greenville
City Council gave preliminary approval
for a new ordinance that would allow
them to block Confederate flags from
being flown from city garages, as they
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Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or
follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.
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