AIKEN - A request by the Sons of the Confederacy to fly three Confederate flags and the South Carolina state flag to honor the 100th year of an Aiken monument was denied by city council Monday night.
The heritage group requested to fly the flags from noon July 22 until sundown July 23 to recognize the anniversary of the Confederate memorial on city property at Chesterfield and Park streets in downtown Aiken.
In a session before the meeting, council members and Mayor Fred Cavanaugh requested that an American flag be flown instead of a third Confederate flag. City Attorney Gary Smith warned the request infringed on the Sons of the Confederacy's right to free speech.
Mr. Smith told council it could allow the group to fly any four flags it wanted, or none at all.
"We're opening up the door to something that I'm not so sure we really ought to be doing," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "Once we agree to fly flags of any type then we've really opened the door to all types.
"We have a certain part of our community that feels very sensitive for their own reasons. I can understand both sides of the issue about the Confederate flag."
Council voted 4-3 against the request. Council member Beverly Clyburn, who voted against it, said the Confederate flag does not offend her but is offensive to others.
"We're very fortunate in this town to have a community that can work together," Ms. Clyburn said. "We haven't always been that way. We've worked hard to build relationships between the races. I do not want to be a part of tearing down what we've worked so hard to build."
Also voting against the flag flying was Lessie Price. "At some point, we need to remember that we're all Americans," she said.
Council member Pat Cunning said he did not favor raising the flags permanently. He added that an exception should be made because of the memorial's centennial anniversary.
"I think we need to recognize the needs of our citizens, pro or con," council member Michael Anaclerio said. "This is their city."
Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895.