Originally created 03/10/02

Supporters protest



The NAACP will hold a rally and march in Greenville on Saturday to protest the NCAA men's basketball tournament being held in South Carolina.

Prince Williams, a black minister from Charleston, S.C., shook his head and chuckled as he watched the red and blue Palmetto flags waving in Saturday's wind.

The Rev. Williams stopped at the South Carolina Welcome Center in North Augusta on his way home from Atlanta. The center was the gathering place for about 20 members of the South Carolina League of the South and others who held a counterprotest to last weekend's NAACP border patrol.

Dressed in red shirts, the group held "Welcome" banners and waved at passing motorists from a hill on Interstate 20.

"There are more important things going on in the state than that," Mr. Williams said. "I think both groups should get together and collaborate about how we can make South Carolina schools better and fight South Carolina's crime rate. That's where the energy should be going."

The NAACP border patrol is the group's latest effort to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. The group began an economic boycott in January 2000, and the flag was later moved from the Capitol building.

But the group wants the flag gone, so the border patrols were set up toto discourage people from spending money in the state.

League of the South members said the reason for their counterprotest was the opposite.

"We're here to encourage people to celebrate South Carolina," said Lourie Salley, the league's midlands coordinator.

On the North Carolina border, members of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, which lists David Duke as its president, called on those who sympathize with "white civil rights" to gather at the state visitors centers "to show good old-fashioned Southern hospitality," said Vincent Breeding, the group's national director.

The counterprotest in North Augusta began at noon, and Rick Bernardi, of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, was the first to arrive.

Dressed in a Confederate flag jacket with two small Confederate flags waving from the car windows of his Camaro, he said he wanted to come to the center to educate people.

"We can put a man on the moon, but we can't stop all this chaos," he said.

Officers from the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the State Law Enforcement Division and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office supervised, and one SLED officer videotaped the activity.

The state Natural Resources Department posted officers on a steep hill behind the welcome center.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.