COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -For the first time since 2016, the South Carolina Secessionist Party will not hold its annual Confederate Flag Rally on State House grounds, an event typically held every July 10. Instead, there are other events planned for the day.
A pro-Confederate Flag Rally has been approved for the early morning hours of Wednesday, between 6:00 – 8:00 AM, but that group is expected to clear out in time for the organization Showing Up for Racial Justice or SURJ, which has been approved to rally at the site between 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
SURJ says the idea for its rally is to take up space and prevent the raising of what they see as a controversial flag.
Back in 2015, then governor, Nikki Haley, signed the Flag Removal Bill, which called for the removal of the Confederate flag from State House grounds. This came shortly after the Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charleston where nine people were killed and several others were injured. The convicted shooter was seen posing in pictures with the Confederate flag.
The flag was officially removed from the State House on July 10, 2015. In the years to follow, the now dissolved SC Secessionist Party would apply for a permit to use State House grounds every July 10, to raise the Confederate flag.
This time SURJ applied for the permit first. According to the group’s website, the national organization is working to undermine white supremacy and promote racial justice.
Sarah Keeling started the Columbia chapter of SURJ in 2016.
“To many people, the Confederate flag represents hate not heritage. It’s a symbol of white supremacy and so we think it’s important when there are times like that – it is safer for people who look like me to be out in public protesting those things than people of color," said Keeling. "There’s going to be some local organizations out supporting: the Simple Justice Black Lives Matter chapter, the Unitarian Universalist Church, More Justice Ministries. The Harry Hancock Center. So, we have a lot of groups coming out together.”
Keeling says the purpose, Wednesday, is to “just take up space and make it so that the flag can’t go up. I do expect that there will be some people protesting us. I mean, they do have a right to protest or to want to put the flag up, but I think it doesn’t reflect the majority of South Carolinians and how they feel about the history of the flag.”
The group Flags Across the South is also planning a pro-Confederate Flag Rally at the State House, Saturday. One supporter of that event says this is not about race. The group says they’re planning to have an honorable flag raising in memory of the confederate veterans who served. That will be from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Saturday.