June 30, 2015

Tillman statue on Statehouse grounds vandalized

A maintenance employee pressure washes the Tillman statue after the damage was found Tuesday

A maintenance employee pressure washes Tillman’s statue after the damage was found Tuesday

The law enforcement agency which provides security for South Carolina’s Statehouse in Columbia confirmed Tuesday that a statue of former Gov. Benjamin Tillman had been defaced with red paint.

Lt. Kelly Hughes, a Highway Patrol trooper who works with the state Department of Public Safety said an officer spotted what appeared to be red paint on the statue’s right leg around 10:00 am Tuesday morning. Paint was also splashed on the pedestal. Division of General Services crews worked to remove the stains on Tuesday afternoon.

Hughes said it appeared someone had thrown a small balloon containing red paint at the statue.

Tillman was perhaps the most controversial figure to ever govern South Carolina, leading the state from 1890-1894 and serving as U.S. senator after that until his death in 1918. The Democrat pushed for segregationist principles and helped eliminate the last vestiges of voting rights most African-American men obtained after the Civil War.

The vandalism was the third security breach on the Capitol grounds in slightly more than three days. On Saturday, a protester climbed a flagpole holding the Confederate battle flag and removed the flag briefly before her arrest. On Monday, several pro-flag and anti-flag protesters got into a brawl in front of the flag. Officers arrested an Irmo man for his role in the fight.

Additional officers and DPS vehicles were visible at the Statehouse Tuesday.

Tillman was instrumental in the founding of what is now Clemson University and creating the first federal ban on corporate campaign funding (known as the “Tillman Act”). However, it is his connections with Edgefield County’s “Red Shirts” that garners the most negative attention. He was indicted (though never prosecuted) for his role in the Hamburg Massacre roughly 15 years before becoming governor and his allies had a reputation for voter intimidation and violence during election campaigns. He was also a key figure in creating the 1896 state constitution that effectively ended most black voting in South Carolina.


Haley issues 87 vetoes, largely targeting earmarks

Haley unveiled her vetoes shortly before Tuesday night's deadline

Haley unveiled her vetoes shortly before Tuesday night’s deadline

Gov. Nikki Haley revealed her budget vetoes Tuesday, striking 87 lines totaling more than $30 million from the overall state budget plans.

The majority of the vetoes (46) were for $25.7 million in spending that the Governor’s Office considered earmarks.

“What we saw was the rebirth of earmarks this year in the budget,” she told reporters while announcing the vetoes. “We don’t need to be paying for the Kiwanis Club of Fountain Inn. We don’t need to be paying for the Inman City Market and the Spartanburg City Park.” The market would get $100,000 and park $300,000 in state tourism dollars under the legislative budget. Language in the budget dealing with the Kiwanis would allow the organization to transfer grants from its now-defunct Fountain Inn chapter.

Most of the vetoes dealt with lower-key items that received little floor debate, although Haley did strike down a study that would be commissioned to look into state employees’ pay. The governor said a similar study has been done previously. An $800 bonus for state employees making under $100,000 was left in.

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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.





‘God works in mysterious ways’ President eulogizes fallen senator

President Obama speaks during the funeral for State Sen. Pinckney on Friday (Image: SCETV)

President Obama speaks during the funeral for State Sen. Pinckney on Friday (Image: SCETV)

In a eulogy for a slain South Carolina legislator Friday, President Obama pushed for an examination of what he said were the country’s racial biases and the symbols of a segregated past.

Obama made the comments during a roughly 35-minute speech to honor State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the Emanuel AME pastor who was murdered by a suspected white supremacist at the church last week. Eight others were killed in the attack.

“It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson, and shots fired at churches. Not random, but as a means of control. A way to terrorize and oppress,” the President said. “An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.”

“Oh, but God works in mysterious ways,” he said to large applause. “God has different ideas. He didn’t know he was being used by God. Blinded by hatred, the alleged killed could not see the grace surrounding Rev. Pinckney and that Bible study group.”

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Same-sex marriage ruling to have limited impact in SC, where it’s already legal

U.S. Supreme Court (Image: SCOTUS)

U.S. Supreme Court (Image: SCOTUS)

The Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage Friday will have only a minimal impact in South Carolina, where it was legalized last year.

The justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that all gay or lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry, overriding existing bans in the last 14 states that had not legalized the marriages through their laws or court order.

South Carolina was among those states where a court order tossed out a ban last year. Counties began accepting marriage applications in November after a federal judge struck down the state’s law and higher courts refused to take up the state’s appeal.

The court ruled states that refuse to provide marriage licenses to such couples violate the Constitution’s provision requiring “equal protection under the law.” Friday’s ruling gives few legal options to opponents, although South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he would still fight for religious freedoms.

“This week, we have seen the U.S. Supreme Court deliver a devastating blow to the Tenth Amendment, which was designed by our founders to protect the authority of individual states,” Wilson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this decision empowers federal judges to rewrite any law and overturn any vote of the people. Our system of government was founded upon checks and balances within different branches of government, not upon the unlimited power of unelected judges.”

The four justices who dissented from the ruling insisted the constitution does not address marriage, meaning it should be a state issue.