June 30, 2015

Irmo man arrested after fight between protesters at Statehouse

Law enforcement officers at the Statehouse in Columbia say an Irmo man was arrested Monday after a fight broke out between apparent Confederate flag supporters and a group of about 30 protesters rallying against its presence at the Capitol.

A Department of Public Safety release said 25-year-old Nicholas Thompson was charged with disorderly conduct. The fight marred what had been mostly peaceful opposing rallies up to that point.

Bureau of Public Safety officers (who provide security at the Statehouse) reported a group of about 15 vehicles with pro-flag supporters pulled up on Gervais Street in front of the Statehouse just after 7:00 p.m. and stopped in the middle of the street. The officers said about eight to 10 occupants then got out of the vehicles and “began to engage in an altercation with the crowd.” The announcement does not specifically say if Thompson had been inside one of the vehicles or if he was already on the grounds at the time.

BPS and additional law enforcement were able to contain the situation. The SC Highway Patrol, University of South Carolina Police and Columbia Police Department responded to the scene as well. Protesters remained on the Statehouse grounds two hours later, although police had shut down the block of Gervais Street that passes in front of the flag.

Both pro-flag and anti-flag protesters had gathered at the base of the flag earlier in the evening. A WLTX reporter had even tweeted out video of some members from both groups praying together.

Jeb Bush talks about own efforts to remove Florida’s Confederate flags

Bush spoke to Nephron Pharmaceuticals employees shortly after touring the plant Monday

Bush spoke to Nephron Pharmaceuticals employees shortly after touring the plant Monday

Former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush called the Confederate battle flag a “racist” symbol during an appearance at a West Columbia pharmaceutical plant Monday and said he believed South Carolina is doing the right thing by removing it.

“South Carolina wants to be viewed as the host of this great business. I think most South Carolinians are proud of Boeing, they’re proud of the businesses that have come here,” he told about a hundred employees gathered at Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation. “And anything that gets in the way of that vision… ought to be put aside, while doing it respectfully.”

The Confederate battle flag at the Statehouse has suddenly become the hottest issue in South Carolina politics in the weeks after a white supremacist was charged with murdering nine black members of a Charleston AME Church on June 17. That individual 21-year-old Dylann Roof posted numerous photos online of himself posing with Confederate paraphernalia — particularly the flag.

State leaders had been reluctant to take up the flag’s position in front of the Capitol suddenly went with the public momentum last week, starting with Gov. Nikki Haley’s own call for the flag to come down on June 22. Within days, a supermajority of legislators joined her in the call. It will take a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to remove the flag. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Columbia on July 6 for that debate.

[Read more…]

Jesse Jackson says flag’s removal will advance South Carolina

During a visit to Greenville on Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson praised efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from Statehouse grounds.

“This is the moment for a great awakening,” Jackson, who is originally from Greenville, said during a press conference.

He praised Republicans who have called for the flag’s removal, among them Gov. Nikki Haley and Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. Jackson said he believes the GOP lawmakers’ sentiments are sincere. Legislators will likely start debate on the flag’s future next week.

The civil rights veteran also commended the governor for leading the way last week. “We are determined to let the best of our state come out. We’ve seen that so far. The statement made by Governor Nikki Haley was most profound.”

But he called on leaders to seize momentum for more change. Jackson said he believed the deaths would lead to social change, much like the assassination of President John Kennedy. “There’s power in innocent blood.” He said the state should also take a further look at education conditions, high number of incarcerated African-American youth, and expanding Medicaid eligibility in South Carolina.

Jackson called the June 17 shootings in Charleston the “most-traumatic killings” since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He said the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator among the victims who were killed, will be remembered as a martyr.





Grand Strand may finally get rail service again after four-year gap

An unused bridge near the Waccamaw River in Conway is one of many for the former Carolina Southern Railroad (File)

An unused bridge near the Waccamaw River in Conway is one of many for the former Carolina Southern Railroad (File)

A Kentucky company has announced plans to buy a shuttered 80-mile long Pee Dee rail line, potentially reopening South Carolina’s Grand Strand region to cargo trains for the first time in nearly four years.

R.J. Corman Railroad has agreed to purchase the former Carolina Southern line for $13.9 million, according to an announcement from several of the parties involved. Carolina Southern stopped operating after the Federal Railroad Administration declared some of its bridges unsafe for travel in 2011. Owner Ken Pippin had said his company could not afford the necessary repairs and failed in its application for federal grant funds. In response, officials in Marion, Horry, and Columbus, NC counties, fearful of the negative impact on their areas industrial sector, began a legal fight with the company to abandon its rail.

An agreement was eventually signed last year between Carolina Southern and the two-state rail committee representing those governments. That agreement cleared the way for the counties to find a third party for much of the rail line, which ended up being R.J. Corman.

An R.J. Corman representative said both parties hope to close on the deal by August 1. Then the attention will shift toward repairing the line’s aging track and bridges.

[Read more…]

SC NAACP leader calls for ‘patience’ after activist removes Confederate flag

The Southern Poverty Law Center posted video of Newsome taking down the flag (SPLC)

The Southern Poverty Law Center posted video of Newsome taking down the flag on its Facebook page Saturday (SPLC)

South Carolina’s NAACP chapter is urging “patience” among its members after a North Carolina activist climbed up and removed the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds Saturday.

“Impatience must always be tempered by purpose and prudence,” State Conference President Lonnie Randolph, Jr., said in a statement. “Given the actions of the South Carolina General Assembly in the last several days, we ask everyone who shares our impatience and our disapproval of the flag to be patient and permit the General Assembly the opportunity to take its vote in July to at last remove this hurtful symbol from the people’s State House.”

30-year-old Brittany “Bree” Newsome of Raleigh was arrested once she climbed down from the pole at dawn Saturday. Several Bureau of Public Safety officers had spotted her using climbing gear to get up to the flag. Both she and another individual James Tyson of Charlotte were arrested for going inside the wrought-iron fence that surrounds the flag.

Both were charged with “defacing a monument.” Newsome is black, while Tyson is white. Another replacement flag was put up moments later. [Read more…]