Confederate flag supporters rally to put banner back on S.C. Statehouse

Sunday, January 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ About 100 people rallied Saturday to defend the Confederate flag's display at the Statehouse and to counter anti-flag events planned on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Organizer Robert Clarkson says the Southern Rights Association's event was called, in part, to show their belief that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People randomly chose the flag to garner publicity.

``They need a cause,'' said Clarkson. ``They went around looking and found the flag.''

Clarkson said the Confederate flag isn't about racism, it's about heritage.

``It's not a political symbol to us,'' he said.

Many at the Statehouse wore Stars and Bars hats and carried large Confederate flags. A group of men in gray Confederate soldier grab toted rifles and some women donned 1800s hoop-style dresses.

One demonstrator brought his blunt message for the NAACP: keep out of South Carolina.

``Don't cross the border, stay on the other side,'' said Jerry Creech of the Southern Small Business Association. ``We don't want you here.''

The Confederate flag issue has divided the state since the Legislature decided to move the flag from the Statehouse dome to the Confederate soldier monument on the grounds in July 2000 as part of a compromise.

The NAACP has pressured lawmakers to completely remove the flag from Statehouse grounds. Their protest Monday is planned to honor the slain civil rights leader on his birthday.

It's a common misconception the flag issue was over when it was removed from atop the Statehouse, said Ken James, president of the Hilton Head-Bluffton branch of the NAACP. ``If anything, that was a slap in the face,'' James told The Beaufort Gazette.

The NAACP plans to stage ``border patrols'' along state lines, using signs to urge motorists not to stop, shop or stay in South Carolina. The patrols will start in late February and will be at all the major interstates and other highways entering the state.