In July of 2015, South Carolina Highway Patrol Honor Guard quietly removed the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Statehouse. The flag was surrendered to the museum curator of the Confederate Relic room in the State Museum, down the road from the Capitol.
I live in a town that if I drive 30 minutes east, I can have all the advantages of a bustling, diverse city. I can drive just 20 minutes to the west and be at a run-down roadhouse bar that displays its hatred and bigotry openly with sign and flags. Their changeable copy sign protested the removal of the flag in South Carolina. In the western area and the northwestern area of Georgia, the reaction to South Carolina retiring the Confederate flag was seen for weeks. Some towns were witnessing parades of trucks flying U.S. flags, “Don’t tread on me” flags, and Confederate Flags on the weekends for weeks that summer. These parades put some towns’ streets in gridlock. Minorities and immigrants were harassed.
In Douglas County, Georgia, the county where I live, was not spared these demonstrations for the love of Confederate Flags. A group the named themselves “Respect the Flag” were parading around the county on a Sunday in July 2015. 5 trucks pulled into an empty lot next to the home of an African American family that was having a gathering for a kid’s birthday outside. A member of Respect the Flag pulled a shotgun and pointed it at party-goers, used racial slurs and threatened to kill people at the party.
Here is the 911 call of one the people attending the party….
Two people, Kayla Rae Norton, 25, and Jose Ismael Torres, 26, were convicted of gang activity in February 2017. The judge sentenced Torres to 20 years, with 13 to serve in prison. Norton was given 15 years, with six to serve.
In reaction to this sentencing, Stephen Howard, imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi, announced that 200 members will arrive in Douglas County to protest in March 2017. He threatened that the group will be armed and dressed in full robes. (The courthouse is approximately three blocks from where the African American family that was harassed lives.) I decided to go witness the rally with camera in hand. When I arrived, the Klan had not arrived, yet. There was a large law enforcement presence. The crowd was rather large in front of the courthouse. Most people there were in protest the Mississippi KKK. There were a handful people in support of the KKK. There were a few tense moments and words exchanged, but, for the most part, it was peaceful and without incident.
The Mississippi Klan did not show up for their demonstration.
Election season in Douglas County last fall did not go by without incident. Thom Wortham, Douglas County Commission Chair was campaigning at a festival that was held at the courthouse. Commissioner Wortham was elected in 2005 and it was expected that his challenger for the seat, Ramona Jackson Jones, would not pose much of a threat. All of this changed when a festival goer caught Wortham on a cell phone video making racist remarks regarding what would happen to Douglas County if the leadership in the county was primarily African American. (Douglas County is 41% African American.)
Randy Travis Fox5 report:
This video was the primary reason that Wortham lost his seat to Ramona Jackson Jones, as well as the first elected African American Sheriff of the county, as well as an African American Tax Commissioner.
And these are recent incidents and within a mile of my home.
These racists, Klan members, Alt-right, white supremacists whatever they call themselves, are in plain view. They are just not hiding anymore.
They say it is about flags and monuments. Charlottesville was not about a monument. The threat against that African American family was not about a flag. It is about the bigotry and racism like the thoughts expressed by Wortham.
And, yes, people are resisting.
All in plain view.