ANOTHER LEGAL VICTORY FOR FLAG BACKERS …
The Confederate flag will fly once again from a public square in the South Carolina town of Walhalla after local leaders concluded they lacked the statutory authority to take it down.
According to sources familiar with the situation, the flag will be returned to its former position of prominence next to a Confederate memorial on Walhalla’s Main Street as soon as this Saturday.
Walhalla leaders had replaced the controversial banner with a state flag, but were challenged by the S.C. Secessionist Party – which cited a 2000 state law prohibiting them from doing so.
That law – the so-called “Heritage Act” – holds that “any monument, marker, memorial, school, or street erected or named in honor of the Confederacy or the civil rights movement located on any municipal, county, or state property shall not be removed, changed, or renamed without the enactment of a joint resolution by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the General Assembly.”
The Heritage Act was part of the bipartisan, biracial compromise that moved the Confederate flag off of the dome of the S.C. State House to a position on the north lawn of the state capitol sixteen-and-a-half years ago.
This law was amended in the spring of 2015 to remove the flag from the State House grounds – but legislative leaders made clear at the time that they would support no further historical sanitization.
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Earlier this month, York County clerk of court David Hamilton unilaterally decided to remove a Confederate flag – and pictures of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson – from the county’s newly-renovated courthouse.
Days later, though, Hamilton reversed his decision – acknowledging he lacked the authority to remove these items from the facility without legislative authorization. Accordingly the flag – and the pictures – were restored.
Secessionist Party leader James Bessenger said his group would be on hand this weekend in Walhalla to ensure the town followed through on its promise to restore the banner. He also said the party would challenge other efforts to remove Confederate flags, markers, memorials and monuments – efforts that seem destined to succeed based on these first two test cases.
“It’s the law,” one legislative leader told us.
Our view on all this?
As previously stated, we have objection to local governments wanting to take down Confederate flags. In the spring of 2015 we were the first media outlet in the state of South Carolina to call for the removal of the flag from the grounds of the State House. Our column to that effect was published less that 48 hours after the “Holy City Massacre,” a premeditated, racially motivated slaughter of nine black churchgoers by a 21-year-old white supremacist. Unlike then-S.C. governor Nikki Haley, we immediately made the call – we didn’t have to wait for our crony capitalist masters to tell us the right thing to do.
Having said that, if flag opponents at the local level want to bring these banners down – they are legally obligated to get a two-thirds majority of the S.C. General Assembly to approve of their action.
Otherwise, such moves are (for now) illegal.
One final note: Our original story on the Walhalla Confederate flag saga stated the memorial site in question sat on land owned by the city. Turns out the land is actually owned by the state. We bring this up solely as a point of clarification. The distinction doesn’t matter legally given that the Heritage Act expressly included municipal and county property.
Stay tuned … we expect to see this saga repeat itself across South Carolina as flag backers search for instances in which city, county or state leaders may have jumped the gun in their efforts to remove all traces of Confederate history from the state.
(Banner via iStock)