The Sons of Confederate Veterans will not just stand by passively and watch one of their cherished symbols removed from the South Carolina statehouse grounds. “Our heritage is under serious attack,” read a post on the group’s Facebook page. The national group held a conference call last night to organize its lobbying efforts in light of what it called “the rapidly changing situation in Columbia, South Carolina,” according to another post on its Facebook page.
“I am concerned because this is a mass hysteria on anything Confederate, whether it is South Carolina or Georgia, or I got calls from what’s happening in Washington state and Alabama. It’s all over and it just seems like a feeding frenzy,” Charles Kelly Barrow, the commander in chief of the national Sons of Confederate Veterans organization, told TPM. “It’s wrong and it’s tragic that they’re taking something that happened in South Carolina — a tragedy — and people are trying to make political statements.”
Earlier in the week, the South Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans posted a “CALL TO ACTION !!!!!!!!!!!” on its Facebook page, urging members to call their state legislators and lobby against the removal of the flag, which has flown above Confederate monument near the Capitol since 2000.
“For one hundred and fifty years, Southerners have been maligned by the victors of an unnecessary war. In recent years some headway has been made in educating our fellow countrymen as to the true facts of our shared history,” the post said. “But even though Confederate history and the symbols of the South had no connection whatsoever with the senseless crime in question, a loud cry for punitive reparations (first) demanding the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the Confederate monument at the Statehouse in Columbia, SC.”
Movement to remove the flag gained steam Monday when South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) — joined by state lawmakers of both parties as well as U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC) — announced she supported efforts to take the flag down and would call on a special legislative session if legislators were unable to do so in the current term. According to the New York Times, a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers will be required to address the issue.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is identified as a neo-confederate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It reportedly has a membership of more than 29,000, limited to “male descendants of any veteran who served honorably in the Confederate armed forces.” SCV is headquartered in Columbia, Tenn. It was instigator of the Confederate flag speciality license plates that the Supreme Court last week ruled Texas could reject. Its members will “commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought,” reads a portion of the South Carolina CSV website.
“It seems like they were looking for the opportunity to make a big deal of the Confederate monuments,” Barrow said in the interview with TPM, comparing the effort to ISIS’s destruction of ancient monuments or the Nazis’ plunder of art during World War II. “First it’s going to be the Confederate flag, and then it will be Confederate monuments.”
The organization has made statements condemning the massacre in a historically black church in Charleston that left nine African Americans dead and distancing itself from the suspected shooter Dylann Roof, who was previously photographed with various Confederate flag memorabilia.
“I just don’t see the connection. The Confederate battle flag didn’t shoot those people in the church. It was a kid with a mental illness that is what is is. People need to be looking at that,” Barrow said.