On the anniversary of the Confederate flag’s removal from the grounds of the S.C. State House, organizers are planning to rally with the flag outside the State House, right before the grounds are turned over to a racial justice group.
Ryan Barnett reserved the State House grounds from 6 to 8 a.m. Wednesday for a “Confederate flag rally,” according to his permit application to the S.C. Department of Administration.
The rally’s permit expires only an hour before the Columbia chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice is scheduled to hold its own celebration of the flag’s removal from the State House grounds four years ago. Group founder Sarah Keeling had reserved the grounds for the day specifically to block the State House grounds from being used for a flag rally as it has in years past.
A separate group will hold its own Confederate flag event at the State House on Saturday. But Barnett said he wanted flag supporters to have a chance to mark the anniversary at the state capitol.
“They didn’t realize you can’t stop anybody from just showing up,” Barnett said. “I’m confident there will be flags all around there.”
He was unsure Monday how many people would show up for the event, but invited supporters to show up with their own rebel flags beside the Confederate soldiers monument at Gervais and Main streets.
That same day, Showing Up for Racial Justice will hold a lunch on the State House lawn, inviting people to mark the flag’s removal with a picnic outside the capitol between tables for several groups, including Simple Justice/Black Lives Matter, Carolina Peace and the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center. The permit for that event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Keeling, of West Columbia, said Monday she isn’t concerned about any of the Confederate flag supporters sticking around for the lunchtime event, although whether they get invited to join the picnic “depends on how they’re acting.”
“When we protest them, we usually just ignore them,” Keeling said. “We’re not there to change their hearts and minds.”
Likewise, Barnett — who declined to give his location “for my security” — cast his event as a protest against Showing Up’s attempt to use the State House permitting process against flag supporters.
“I’m tired of fascists trying to tell people what we can and can’t do,” Barnett said. “That’s what the flag is all about; it’s against big government, and now it’s against fascism.”
The S.C. Department of Public Safety reviews requests to hold events at the State House for potential public safety concerns, including potential conflicts with other groups. The policy follows dueling rallies between the Ku Klux Klan and a group affiliated with the New Black Panther Party on the capitol grounds in 2015 after the flag was removed following the racially-motivated killing of nine parishioners in a Charleston church.
For the last three years, the S.C. Secessionist Party hosted a flag raising at the State House on the anniversary, but the party disbanded earlier this year when it was ordered to pay a multi-million dollar settlement to an African American mother whose two children were photographed by Secessionists holding Confederate flag stickers without her consent.