Originally created 07/13/01

Group protests Aiken's refusal of flag display



AIKEN - Confederate flags flew in protest Thursday outside the Aiken Municipal Building.

Members of the League of the South, a Confederate heritage group, gathered to protest Aiken City Council's decision Monday to ban the flag from being flown July 22 and 23, the 100th anniversary of the city's Confederate memorial at Chesterfield Street and Park Avenue.

Sons of Confederate Veterans, another heritage group, requested approval to fly three versions of the Confederate flag and the South Carolina state flag. The group wanted to fly the flags on city property from noon July 22 until sundown July 23.

City council asked whether the group would consider flying an American flag rather than a third Confederate flag. After City Attorney Gary Smith warned that requiring certain flags be flown would infringe on the Sons of Confederate Veterans' right to free speech, the council voted down the request 4-3.

"We feel like we have every right to (fly those flags)," protester Tony Carr said, clutching two versions of the Confederate flag outside the municipal building. "We feel like we have every right to do that anytime we want."

Members of the League of the South requested a permit from Aiken Public Safety to protest on city property, which they did from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday. The group will protest again today from noon until 4 p.m.

At one point during the rally, Chief Pete Frommerasked two of the three protesters to move because they were blocking the building's entrance.

"People have the right to express themselves," he said. "Public safety just wants it done in an orderly and safe manner."

Protesters said city council's ruling will not slow their celebration.

"(The flags) will be flying on the 22nd," said Jimmy Arnett, a member of the League of the South. "Lots of them."

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895.