On July 10, the South Carolina Secessionist Party — which seeks to return "honor, integrity and tradition to South Carolina" — will be hosting the first annual Confederate flag raising rally at the South Carolina State House, according to a Facebook event. As of Friday morning, more than 670 people were "attending" on Facebook.
The date is the anniversary of last year's much debated removal of the flag by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, which was in reaction to the Charleston Shooting. "Our treacherous state Legislature voted to remove it without the consent of the people in our state," the event's invitation read, according to the State. "We, however, owe this opportunity to them. Without their poor judgment and lack of integrity, we would not have this cause."
James Bessenger, the Secessionist Party founder, wants the controversial rally to become an annual event, honoring the soldiers of the Civil War. "We do it to honor those who left their homes, left their families, stood on bloody battlefields and sacrificed their lives for the sake of the people of South Carolina," he told the State.
The flag will fly off of a 25-foot aluminum pole with a plastic base during the four-hour event, according to the State. Up to 300 people are expected to attend, but Bessenger will also invite Haley, the state Legislature's 131 members and some neighboring states' secessionist groups.
On June 22, Haley announced the flag was coming down after flying since 1962. Five days earlier, an armed white man committed what authorities deemed a "hate crime" by entering the South's longest-standing African-American congregation, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and shot nine members.
Although expressing disapproval of the rally, lawmakers claimed there are no grounds to stop Bessenger and his approximately 2,000-member group. "I wish they wouldn't, but that's the country that we live in," state Sen. Chip Campsen, who voted for the flag's 2015 removal, told the State. "They have the right of free expression."
Haley had reinstated the group's lost ability to celebrate the anniversary of the state's secession from the Union on the State House's grounds in December, according to the State. Her reasoning was that everyone is entitled to "free speech and free assembly," according to Haley's spokeswoman Chaney Adams.