We need to see mainstream SC — and mainstream leadership — at the Confederate flag rally Saturday

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Our own Phillip Bush wrote these wise words on Facebook today:

Petitions through moveon.org are well-meaning, but ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst: I can tell you anything transmitted to SC legislators via moveon.org will automatically get them to dig in their heels the other way. Calling and writing legislators directly is better, and I like my friend Brad Warthen‘s idea best of all. I’m in, how about you?

Phillip is absolutely right. As I’ve written what seems like a thousand times — petitions from moveon.org, boycotts by the NAACP, federal lawsuits and related kinds of pressure are useless at best, and counterproductive at worst. The white Republicans who control the Legislature (which controls whether the flag flies), and for that matter the black and white Democrats who need to know that there’s a realistic chance if they push the issue forward, need to see that a very broad base of South Carolinians are the ones who are ready and willing to “move on.”

In response to Phillip, Kathryn noted that there’s a rally tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the State House.

Yes, there is. I see that my wife and my daughter-in-law and quite a few friends have already said they plan to be there. That’s wonderful. But I’m a little worried, since the first person I heard about this from was my friend Walid Hakim.

I’m VERY curious to know who’s going to be up on the podium at this event, and details are scarce on the Facebook page. If this is seen as an Occupy Columbia/SC Progressive Network deal, we’re back to the moveon.org problem that Phillip cites. If Walid and Brett Bursey are the only ones up there speaking, it’s not going to accomplish anything. We need to see mainstream people prominently in such an event, like the business and religious leaders who stood up in 2000.

I see that as doable. I don’t know if it’s doable by Saturday night.

I’m very encouraged by the friends I see planning to go. Lots of solid, mainstream South Carolinians. But again, who’s going to be in the news photos from this event? Who’s going to be quoted? That is essential. I don’t want an important event such as this to be something that people who don’t want to act feel like they have an excuse to wave off.

We need to see the kind of prominent advocacy we saw in 2000. We need to see something like the wide array of dignitaries who marched along with Joe Riley on his walk from Charleston. We need religious leaders, and not just the Neal Joneses of the world — we need my own bishop, and people like Dick Lincoln, pastor of Shandon Baptist, who stepped forward when his congregant David Beasley was trying to lead on the issue.

We need leaders from the state Chamber of Commerce. We need presidents of universities. We need party leaders from BOTH parties (which is a very tough thing with one of the parties).

And we need them on the podium, speaking.

I’m kind of doubting anything like that can be arranged by Saturday. There’s so little time. But if any such people are reading this, please come out on Saturday.

Maybe there’s only enough time for ordinary, decent South Carolinians to come out and stand together and take comfort from each others’ company in this terrible time. That’s something, and its worthwhile.

But I want more. I want action. I want a sea change. And I want it come from the very heart of the SC electorate, and from our state’s leadership as well.

We need that.

37 thoughts on “We need to see mainstream SC — and mainstream leadership — at the Confederate flag rally Saturday

  1. Christian Anderson

    Hear, hear! I plan to be there — if for nothing else, for a show of solidarity. As Brad points out, that is something in and of itself. But I hope there’s more — or at least that this is the start of something more and that that “more” is broad-based. Remember the flak that Steve Spurrier got in 2007 when he commented that the flag should come down? I’d suggest asking him to come speak at an event like this — he’s probably one of the few people legislators would listen to.

    1. Christian Anderson

      Here’s Spurrier’s quote: “I realize I’m not supposed to get in the political arena as a football coach, but if anybody were to ask me about that damn Confederate flag, I would say we need to get rid of it.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, inadvertently, you point to a problem with taking any sort of concerted political action right now.

      Did you not see the picture of Vincent in tears, sitting next to his seatmate Clementa Pinckney’s empty seat? For family and friends and close colleagues of the victims, this is a time for mourning, not launching campaigns.

      That was driven home for me when I reached Bud Ferillo, whom I had been trying to reach since yesterday. One of several things I wanted to talk about to Bud — who is close to Joe Riley — is this very subject. But when Bud called me back, he was driving, and just arriving in the high-traffic concentration on his way into Charleston. He was going to meet with Joe Riley and Joe Darby. They were going to be talking about funerals and vigils and such.

      I realized it wasn’t a good time to bother any of them with flag stuff, or other politics…

  2. MIchael

    The problem is, and why I would not go, is because it will not be just about the flag. We will hear and see the full political agenda on display. And being there is an endorsement of whatever extremism is spouted under the guise of a worthy cause.

    People use popular causes as a cover for things that are not so popular. It’s a standard tactic.

    Also, perhaps this is a distraction from honoring the deaths of those people. We’ve now reached full politicization in just 48 hours. Sort of sad.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Michael, here’s why we’re talking about the flag so soon…

      Because the eyes of the world are on us, and EVERYBODY was noticing and making a big deal of the fact that the same flag on the front of Dylann Roof’s car flies on our Statehouse grounds.

      So, while the world is watching, it seemed important to a lot of us to speak up and say, It may be on the grounds, but not with OUR permission.

      People who were close to the nine who died — such as Clementa Pinckney’s colleagues in the Senate — aren’t talking politics on this yet. They’re mourning.

      But this is how some of the rest of us, who didn’t know him or the other victims personally — are expressing what WE feel, and what we think. And there’s nothing sad about that. This is a tribute.

  3. SBS

    Lonnie Randolph’s (SC NAACP President) advice on the best course of moving forward:
    to remain ‘on the side of doing right.’

    The State, 6/19/2015, page A8


    To me, this is instinctive and shouldn’t take a second thought, much less a deliberative action by a deliberative body such as a Legislative body. You act on your conscience and take the flag down. Time’s a wasting.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, and an individual could do that. Once upon a time, all it would have taken was a governor getting up one morning and having the guts to act — or maybe the governor and a couple of other members of the Budget and Control Board.

      But then, right after the GOP took over the House, they put flying the flag into statute. And it would take a supermajority to bring it down…

  4. Bart

    We also need to have someone like Mark Sanford who is being interviewed on Yahoo News to stop equivocating by dodging the question about the flag coming down and take a stand now to support removal of it. Instead of deflecting about income and other issues, address the flag issue now. Of course a compromise was reached before he became governor but it is a different day and a different time.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Trinity Cathedral clergy spoke at the first King Day at the Dome, and did the march before hand, in full regalia, along with a slew of white clergy.

    2. Barry

      Yes- – many times.

      Just today

      The Confederate Battle Flag may mean many things, but with those things it represents a defiance against abolition and against civil rights. The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with burning crosses on front lawns by night.

      That sort of symbolism is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ. The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire. White Christians, let’s listen to our African-American brothers and sisters. Let’s care not just about our own history, but also about our shared history with them. In Christ, we were slaves in Egypt—and as part of the Body of Christ we were all slaves too in Mississippi. Let’s watch our hearts, pray for wisdom, work for justice, love our neighbors. Let’s take down that flag.

      – Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Good for Russell Moore. Too bad he can’t speak for all Southern Baptist churches. I refer to the fact that the Southern Baptist denomination isn’t an organized church. It’s sort of the opposite of Roman Catholic. There is no hierarchy, no governing body. You don’t join THE Baptist Church; you join A Baptist church, and are only a member of that one group that meets in that one building.

        It would be really cool if there were a Baptist pope, and HE said something like that…

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    I sure hope there is no podium and no speakers. We show up. They *THEY* know who we are, what we want and why we want it. *THEY* need to know how many of us will brave the scorching heat to be counted. Just stand and be counted. No showboating.

  6. Karen Pearson

    I hear that the Rev. Mr. Sharpton will be there. That will effectively destroy any chance of getting the flag down.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Eva Moore points out that we need a 2/3 vote of the legislature, which is desperately trying to hammer out a budget before adjourning until January. Not much chance of success anyway.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Really, Karen?

      That’s a serious problem…

      But as Kathryn points out, we really have until next January to build the groundwork for this. It would take a major miracle — actually well over 100 of them — for any action to be taken now. They’re supposed to be gone now. Their failure to pass a budget is the only thing that had them in session this week…

      1. Barry

        AL Sharpton – if he cared- wouldn’t come close to marching against the flag. He won’t help at all.

        The problem is – who knows if he wants to help or not.

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    Well, I got this response from “Take the flag down SC:”

    Don’t have speakers scheduled for tomorrow. This is just a community page and the event spontaneously happened after yesterday’s vigil from many concerned voices. I assume it will be a warm up for an event that is being organized for July 4th. I understand they already have some great speakers for it, if you have ideas or want to help please do. Once organizers create the event for July 4th it will be easier to communicate though here. We’ll just keep using this community Facebook group as an expression and communication outlet.

    To which I responded:

    Dear Take the flag down SC: Thanks for the response, but who are you and who are “we”? You say you “understand they already have some speakers for it, if you have ideas or want to help please do.” But how do I do that? Whom do I contact, and how? Who are “they”? I’d like to touch base with them…

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    Dang it; this is frustrating.

    I reached out to Walid Hakim, who had invited me to participate in this. But he said, “I’m out of the loop on this one sorry.”

    So I asked him to let me know if he DID learn something, and he said he would.

    Why all the mystery? If I were still at the paper and paid to do this sort of thing, I could make a list of a dozen people and just start calling until I found someone who knew something.

    But I can’t do that today…

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Maybe just some rando person decided to DO something and set up a Facebook event. Maybe there is not “we”–just somebody who cared. So many of us, including you, call for a march–maybe someone decided it need to be called.
      It wasn’t me–I would have scheduled it for first thing in the morning–not when it will likely be 99 degrees…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I hate random. I need someone in charge, someone ACCOUNTABLE who is putting thought into making this something meaningful. THOUGH, not feelings, even when they are feelings that I share.

        This authoritarianism on my part comes from my decades as a journalist. If you can’t find the person in charge, the person AUTHORIZED to speak, then you can’t get the facts, or at least, you can’t get them in a way that you can trust these facts to be right.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          The other day at ADCO, someone asked me, with regard to a press release, whether I thought it better for someone here to be the contact, or the communications person who is an employee of the client, their regular official contact.

          I said the latter. No journalist wants to talk to somebody who doesn’t even work at the place in question.

          In fact, I added, no REAL journalist wants to talk to the official flack, either. You want to talk to the person the release is about, or that persons boss, or boss’s boss. Someone authorized to give you real answers.

          Of course, if you can’t get that, you’ll settle for a duly designated representative.

          But in this case, I can’t even get THAT…

  9. Brad Warthen Post author

    Now, “Take the flag down SC” has posted this:

    Just for the record.
    From the administrators of this page.
    We are NOT planning in taking down the Confederate flag ourselves tomorrow at the event.
    We are a peaceful and concerned community group wanting to express and discuss legislative changes to take down that symbol.
    We are not endorsing any violent expression or disrespectful action whatsoever.
    Nevertheless, we are all responsible community members that cannot control individual decisions and actions.
    We ask for a peaceful gathering tomorrow. It is going to be one of many.
    Remember, we all are organizing this, this page is a tool to make it happen, this is our issue.
    Thanks y’all!

    To which I respond:

    But who ARE y’all? I want to talk to you about it, for my blog. I want to know who is organizing, who will speak, etc. If you don’t want to comment for some reason here, please email me at brad@bradwarthen.com.

    This is frustrating…

    Y’all know I LOVE social media, especially Twitter (Facebook considerably less so). But there are days when I miss the old days when you couldn’t publish something without it going through an editor, and I knew who the editor was, and could find out what the H was going on. This anonymity stuff drives me nuts.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        I mean, enough people have said they will go. I doubt it’s someone planning to gun down everyone who shows up (I watch too many TV shows). It sounds like it’s a simple exercise in getting folks to show up.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          But show up for WHAT? To do what, exactly?

          The conventional thing is to hear speakers. Well, who will they be?

          Or will there be some sort of call to action, such as signing a petition? (And for that matter, who will issue the call?)

          Here’s the thing, in case it’s not obvious: I’m not just being curious. If this thing is poorly thought-out at this point, I’d like to bring that to enough people’s attention that MAYBE something can be done to focus it better between now and tomorrow…

  10. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, so somebody claiming to have a permit for the gathering asks me to call her at a certain number. I call. It’s the Department of Corrections, and they’ve never heard of this person.

    Then I see this on the site, from Becci Robbins of the SC Progressive Network:

    The SC Progressive Network office is getting calls about this event, and we don’t know what to tell people because there seems to be nobody in charge on this site. Could someone involved with the planning call us at 803-808-3384? We can help turn people out, but not without knowing more. Thank you.

    OK, so Walid Hakim, who invites me, knows nothing. The SC Progressive Network, which never wants to miss an event like this, knows nothing. One person who CLAIMS to know nothing sends me down a rabbit hole.

    WHAT GIVES? What’s the gag here?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ve talked to Gregory and several other people. More to come…

      The one person who seems to be one of the original organizers, sort of, is Emile DeFelice…

  11. bud

    I fear that taking the flag down is nothing but an empty gesture. The whole thing will become a political circus with ample ugliness on display. I suggest if this is ever to be resolved it needs a referendum. A straight up or down binding vote by the people with 2 simple options: 1. Leave the flag where it is with no talk of it for 10 years at which time another vote will automatically take place. Or 2. Remove the flag from the state house grounds and display in an appropriate place at the state museum.

    A vote by the general assembly alone will merely only result in one of their boneheaded compromises.

  12. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, I know a little more about this thing now.

    Emile DeFelice is involved, and says he’s one of three organizers. The original person who launched it all was sort of overwhelmed by the response, and Emile and another guy stepped in to help.

    Brett Bursey has gotten involved later in the process. I chatted with Brett about it. He says he sees this as less a flag thing than a memorial thing for the victims in Charleston. He apparently got involved without telling Becci Robbins back at the office, and that’s why she was out there asking for info a couple of hours back.

    It’s very free-form. Emile says they are still lining up speakers, and more will appear on the Facebook page.

    Anyway, I’ll put up a separate post later in the evening…

  13. Lynn Teague

    I’m glad to hear (comment above) there will be an event on July 4, when I will be back in town and can be there. This really is a time when we all need to be present and counted on this issue.

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