Racially charged letter sent to Midlands ice cream parlor

Racially charged letter sent to Midlands ice cream parlor

ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - Monday marked two years since the Confederate battle flag was removed from State House grounds. A secessionist group marked that occasion by hoisting a temporary flag at a State House rally.

All the while, an hour away, another Confederate flag still flies high above a Midlands city.

In Orangeburg, you could say the flag flies there because of the late Piggy Park restaurateur Maurice Bessinger. Years ago, he deeded the small piece of land on John C. Calhoun Drive to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for the establishment of a monument.

Recently, that monument has reignited some strong emotions, especially after a racially-charged letter just days ago.

It's visible from a busy road, a new Walmart, and it's visible from Orangeburg's jewel attraction, Edisto Memorial Gardens.

Unfortunately for the owner of Edisto Creamery and Kitchen, it's very visible from there too. It's practically in the creamery's parking lot.

"This flag has been in the face of every citizen in this geographical area ever since it went up," Justin Bamberg, a state representative and the attorney for the owner of the Edisto River Creamery, said.

Last year, the ice cream parlor's owner tried to take it down, but the Sons of Confederate Veterans stood in the way. Turns out, they own the tiny piece of property where the flag stands.

"Right here, in the vicinity of the flag pole and the monument, is an area of land that is about the size of an average master bathroom in the United States," Bamberg said.

Bamberg has argued the flag violates city zoning, but that argument hasn't stuck at this point. The city has said otherwise. However, Bamberg is in the process of appealing.

"In the beginning, things went fairly well," he said. "The problems really did not start until after the Mother Emanuel shooting, and these guys came out here and took their flag down and put up an enormous one. That is when, quite frankly, all hell broke out."

Bamberg says that "hell" continued just days ago when the Edisto River Creamery received a racially-charged letter.

"In short, this letter talks about how this individual, if he owned a business, he would put Confederate flag stickers on the door, because, essentially, it helps keep colored people away," Bamberg said.

The letter says "those people" don't tip and "try to pick up the white girls."

"We certainly don't talk that way, and we don't think that way, and we don't act that way," said "Buzz" Braxton, whose with the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Rivers Bridge Camp #842.

Braxton said the letter is no reason to take down what he views as a heritage symbol.

"We try to be all Southern gentlemen, so it's disturbing if that was, in fact, what he received,” he said while suggesting that the letter might be a hoax.

Bamberg disagrees.

"What folks like Buzz and others need to understand is something very simple. You know, there's a side to these things that they don't see. Oftentimes, they refuse to look at these things through someone else's stance and viewpoint," Bamberg said.

Meanwhile, Donna Strong, a friend of the creamery's owner and a family member to people who work there, said all the flag drama could cause a good business to shutter.

"The place has been vandalized, they're getting death threats, they're getting things put on their Facebook. They're getting hateful stuff put on their Facebook," she said. "One day, if this doesn't stop, they're just going to be gone, and they're going to lose everything."

The letter appears to have been sent from a New Jersey man with a Mount Ephraim P.O. box.

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