PICKENS COUNTY — One rally in favor of the Confederate Flag was held sporadically throughout Pickens County on July 5 and occurred without incident, according to local law enforcement.
The embattled symbol of South Carolina’s history of secession and the Civil War is under fire nationwide. vote is expected in the next two weeks with the state’s Legislature to determine if the flag stays or goes.
The Senate voted Monday afternoon 37-3 in favor of removing the flag and was to reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday for a third reading. If the bill passed third reading, it was sent to the House.
As a result, a social media movement began in the Pickens County area to organize a show of support for the flag.
“This wasn’t any kind of organized protest or rally, more of a social media movement to show support, but there was enough involvement to make sure everyone was prepared,” said Creed Hashe, chief deputy for the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office. “The Easley Police Department was prepared if anything happened to go wrong and we were out as well to provide any support that was needed.”
The rally began at Walmart on S.C. 123 in Easley, but management had not given permission for the event and those gathered moved on. The Easley Police Department was on location and reported no incidents.
“We had notice of the rally and we wanted to be prepared just in case even though no one expected any unruly behavior,” EPD Chief Tim Tollison said. “There were units available at Easley Town Center as well as Walmart. As far as Easley itself is concerned there were no incidents and everyone who attended was peaceful.”
Once the rally was moved from Easley’s Walmart, the group moved to the old Walmart location in Easley on South Pendleton Street where management at one of the stores in the shopping center requested the rally be moved again.
After several more stops throughout the day, including two convenience stores and the Walmart in Powdersville, one property owner allowed the rally to go forward on their own property instead of their business located on S.C. 124.
“We were on hand throughout the day to make sure there would be no trouble and the folks participating in the rally were peaceful and didn’t cause any disturbances, though they were asked by business owners several times throughout the day to relocate, which they did without complaint,” Hashe said. “Once they were on private property we still had units available just in case.
“But, there were no problems at any location throughout the day,” he added. “Several of the folks at the rally approached us and assured us there would be no problems and we reassured them we were there for their protection as much as anyone else. It turned out to be quiet, all in all.”
According to Hashe, the rally was more impromptu than coordinated.
“Other than through communications through social media, there wasn’t a set plan,” Hashe said. “That seemed to be the extent of it, no set plan or location and other than some businesses and property owners asking them to leave there were no problems whatsoever. There had been rumors of Black Panthers and other groups being in attendance which is all they were, just rumors.”