Stacy Huggins Geist
A Confederate battle flag flies above downtown Charleston
Members of the South Carolina Secessionist Party gathered across downtown Charleston Sunday to fly the Confederate battle flag in protest of an upcoming visit from civil rights activist Bree Newsome.
Newsome is known by many as the woman who climbed the flagpole outside of the South Carolina Statehouse and removed the Confederate battle flag following the deaths of nine black parishioners by a white supremacist at Emanuel AME Church in 2015.
Newsome is scheduled to speak at the Sottile Theatre on Feb. 22 in an event sponsored by the College of Charleston’s Office of Student Life and Multicultural Student Programs and Services. Newsome’s scheduled lecture is titled “Tearing Hatred from the Sky." Demonstrators opposing Newsome's visit hoisted the Stars and Bars atop vehicles parked on the roofs of parking garages in what the group called the “Grand Flagging” of Charleston.
Secessionists were met by counter protesters and a swift response from city officials. A notice has now been placed in all City of Charleston parking garages stating that “regulations prohibit signs, banners, flags, or other displays that protrude through openings between parking levels, or upon the exterior surfaces between parking levels or that extend higher than the perimeter wall on the top of the garage.”
“Obviously, the misuse of city garages to fly various flags and banners this afternoon was unexpected,” said city spokesman Jack O’Toole. “This notice makes it clear that city garages are for parking, not for these types of public displays, and it applies to any and every one equally.”
Secessionist Party members claim that the restrictions outlined by the city are an attack on their First Amendment rights and are calling on members to contact the mayor’s office to voice their complaints.
In response to news about the “Grand Flagging,” Newsome took to Twitter to thank those who demonstrated in support of her visit, writing, “To counter protesters: Love and light. To the others: a parking garage is a poor substitute for the dome of the Capitol, isn’t it?”