Outraged over the presence of the Confederate battle flag at this year's Flowertown Festival, two black community activists, known for promoting civil rights in the Lowcountry, called on the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and SLED to investigate the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp in Summerville.
"What they did this weekend was totally out of line," said Louis Smith, founder of the Community Resource Center in Summerville. "It was quite obvious they were trying to instigate a riot, an issue of domestic terrorism...a lot of people could've been hurt."
Not allowed to bring the H.L. Hunley submarine replica to the festival this year, the local Sons of Confederate Veterans H.L. Hunley Camp #143 still setup a booth on private property at John Crouch Tax Service and handed out the battle flag outside the booth on public property, Smith said.
More specifically, though not at the festival, Smith said people told him members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans were handing out battle flags only to white children, an alleged act he called "unacceptable on so many different levels. He said he felt certain that if the Black Panther Party had been at the festival handing out their flags to only black children, police would've arrested them.
"They would have been in jail...had federal charges and everything else," Smith said.
At Wednesday's press conference, Smith also called on the Town of Summerville to issue a "letter of condemnation" against the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He said he'll be addressing town council members at their next meeting on April 13.
According to Pastor Thomas Dixon, co-founder of The Coalition: People United to take Back our Community, and who was also at the press conference, he understands the heritage aspect of the local Confederate group but said there needs to be a balance of representation of the Civil War.
"I believe the Sons of Confederate are truly honoring their ancestors. ...I understand their pride, but it's not the same part of history that I understand."
Dixon revealed that from now on, he will ensure at every Lowcountry event where the Confederate Battle Flag is displayed, there will also be a presence of Black Lives Matter or the Black Liberation flag.
"We want to level the playing field," Dixon said." We're going to present the alternate representation...depicting slavery the way slavery really was -- simulated chains and simulated tortures."
This year was the first time in six years the travelling Hunley exhibit wasn't allowed at the Flowertown Festival, which took place over the weekend. Gary Lukridge, chief executive officer of the Flowertown Family YMCA, which runs the annual event, said organizers didn't turn in an application, though Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter leader Ben Bunting said the group has never had a permit issue in past years.
The replica submarine has traditionally been located in the middle of the street in the first block of the festival, adjacent to the H.L. Hunley Camp 143 tent, requiring it to have a permit.
Some members of Indivisible Summerville, an anti-Trump agenda group, and the Dorchester County Democratic Party were also at the press conference Wednesday in support of Dixon and Smith's views.
According to Rob Groce, a local representative for the Democratic Party's state executive committee, he found fault only with the Sons of Confederate Veterans not staying on private property during the festival.
"That's where they overstepped," Groce said.
The YMCA has not even allowed either political party to host a festival booth the last nine years, he revealed.
Groce also explained how he doesn't necessarily believe the local Sons of Confederate Veterans group is racist but believes that is true of the national chapter.
"I'm not saying the local organization is discriminatory, but the national organization is...openly racist," Groce said.
Summerville resident Debbie Lodge explained her understanding of both sides, how as a child she, too, used to wave the Confederate battle flag with pride, honoring her ancestors who fought in the Civil War. As an adult, Lodge no longer associates herself with it, recognizing that the flag has become a symbol of hate and racism and "glorified as a symbol of white supremacy."
"I have Confederate ancestors, but I don't believe in displaying the Confederate flag," she said. "Everybody in South Carolina should know now this is not acceptable."
After the conference, Brandon White and Charles Chandler held a large black-and-red Blacks Lives Matter sign along South Main Street. Chandler also waved a flag displaying the anarchist symbol. They explained they had hoped to attend the presser but were late. The two said they are part of the People's Solidarity Society, a collective in Charleston that has been working to infiltrate members of the S.C. Secessionist Party.
A North Charleston resident, White said police approached the pair, said Black Lives Matter was a terrorist organization and told them their presence might distract drivers.
"I feel almost threatened and harassed," White said. But police left them when White said he told them he was tired of talking.
Though Caucasian, White said flying the Confederate battle flag is an insult to him, too.
"The fact an individual is going to fly (it)...brings up a lot of hurts and negativity. All lives matter but they can't matter until they realize black lives matter."
Chandler, who lives in West Ashley, said he's personally ashamed of his own family's past ownership of slaves in Williamsburg County.
"That angers me and saddens me to the core," Chandler said. "We (white) people all have a heritage, and it's a heritage of hate."
Pastor Dixon said he thinks that despite the continued debate over the Confederate battle flag, peace is possible among all races in the Lowcountry because they share a common bond of patriotism and humanity.
"There has to be (unity)," he said. "We're Americans first; we're human beings beyond that. I believe personally we can work together, and we will."
Smith agreed with his counterpart.
"Let's call it like it is: the South has got to change," he said. "I'm excited about the 'New South.'"
Smith said he and several local groups plan to send correspondence to the state and federal-level agencies requesting an investigation into the Confederate group.