NCAA, SC Secessionist Party, Gamecocks coach respond to Confeder - FOX Carolina 21

NCAA, SC Secessionist Party, Gamecocks coach respond to Confederate flag display near tournament arena in Greenville

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Confederate flag being flown in downtown Greenville. (March 19, 2017 FOX Carolina) Confederate flag being flown in downtown Greenville. (March 19, 2017 FOX Carolina)
Response from NCAA on flying of confederate flag. (Source: Twitter) Response from NCAA on flying of confederate flag. (Source: Twitter)

The NCAA and Gamecocks Head Coach Frank Martin are responding to a Confederate flag display made by the SC Secessionist Party during the NCAA Tournament.

Members of the SC Secessionist Party displayed several Confederate flags around the Bon Secours Wellness arena during the tournament Sunday afternoon with one hoisted at a garage near the arena.

The NCAA released a statement on the incident on Sunday.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock posted the full statement on his verified Twitter account:

According to an AP report, Greenville police had the group move about 50 feet away from the arena, citing safety concerns if the flag tipped over.

Confederate flag flies next to NCAA arena in South Carolina

Chairman James Bessenger of the SC Secessionist Party released his account of the incident.

Bessenger said the party was told by the city of Greenville that they do not need an ordinance to fly the flag. The issue arose, however, when an officer told people holding flags near the street that they could not fly their flags in that area.

Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said the group was asked to move the flag in the truck to a different location due to public safety concerns.

“If the mast broke came free of the truck, its pretty clear that it would go over – given the wind direction – it would go over on to people down below, so that’s why we asked them to move that.”

Once demonstrators began carrying flags near the arena, Miller said police informed the activists of a city ordinance that says the flag poles must be 40 inches or less asked them to stop flying the flags because the poles were too long. 

Bessenger said the party is having attorneys look into the incident between police and the flag holders.

Bessenger released some additional clarification in this statement detailing his version of events.

The flag was first raised approximately 15 feet in the bed of the vehicle in a parking space up against the outer wall of the parking garage. At the request of Chief Miller the vehicle was pulled forward approximately 15 feet to a parking space directing across from the one it initially occupied to prevent the pole from falling over the edge of the garage in the event of a mechanical failure. At that point, to ensure the flag could be seen after the move, the pole was elevated to 30ft. We initially sought to obtain a permit for this event but were told by city officials we would not be required to have one.

When flag bearers took positions along the sidewalks across from the arena city police called into question the lengths and materials the flag poles were made of, citing a "Picketing Ordinance". Prior to our event we had spoken with city representatives who indicated to us that this ordinance would only apply in the event that signs and placards were used, as the ordinance states that signs and placards may not be more than a given size and can be attached to poles made of wood not to exceed approx. 40 inches. Prior to having flaggers take a position on the side walk we spoke with at Lieutenant at the Police Department who also indicated that this ordinance did not apply to flags and that we would be in compliance. However, Chief Miller came to the scene and indicated that the Citys legal team decided it was appropriate to enforce the ordinance on the length of the flag bearers flag poles. Under threat of being issued citations for violating this ordinance, we had our flag bearers relocate from the sidewalk.

I believe it necessary to note that when I mentioned to Chief Miller that we felt we were only being singled out due to the type of flag that we were flying and that I did not believe he would be enforcing this against us should we be flying U.S. flags the Chief stated "That's different. That's a flag of this country. These flags you have are not" or words to that effect. To us, this was a case of censorship and not law enforcement and our legal team is reviewing it as such. We find it strange that a similar demonstration was held during the GOP debate by many of the same individuals waving the same flags on the same flag poles and this ordinance was not enforced. Chief Miller refused to comment when I brought this up to him.

That being said, the flag in the bed of the vehicle remained from 9:30am to 5:30pm and was deemed legal by Chief Miller, but our flag bearers on the sidewalks were forced to leave after being on the side walk for approximately an hour due to the Citys decision to enforce this "picketing ordinance". 

Chief Miller said he did not say the party could not express themselves, however, he said the Confederate flag is considered a banner.

“I said ‘in my estimation that’s a banner and the national and state flags are flags for purposes of protection in terms of expression’.”

Coach Frank Martin of the Gamecocks expressed his view on the incident in an interview on ESPN Monday night.

"It’s the beauty of our country that we get to express what we believe.," Martin said. "I’m not inviting that person to my house to eat dinner anytime soon because I don’t believe in that. But it’s their flag. It’s their right. They can do whatever they wanna do with it.”

Martin emphasized the positive movement the NCAA Tournament brought to Greenville.

“This state’s about love. This state is about people moving forward, opening doors for each other...I look at it the other way, that our state was progressive enough to make decisions to move forward that gave us the opportunity to have such a great event in Greenville to create such a positive movement for basketball and for everyone in our state.”

SC Secessionist Party to fly Confederate flags at all NCAA championship events

Bessenger released a statement on behalf of the SC Secessionist Party on Monday, saying the party would conduct displays like the one on Sunday "at all NCAA championships that are hosted in the State of South Carolina going forward."

Here is the full statement:

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