By Robert Kittle
Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on Tuesday observed South Carolina’s first Confederate Memorial Day since the Confederate flag was removed from the Statehouse grounds last July. An honor guard stood at the Confederate Soldier Monument, with a wreath and several Confederate flags surrounding the monument.
Wearing a replica Confederate soldier’s uniform, Rusty Rentz of Lexington said of the flag’s removal, “I am still very upset and angry about it. My senator voted to bring it down. I will not vote for her again. I will not vote for Gov. Haley again, no matter what type office she runs for. And I think it should have been left up to the people to decide whether the flag stayed up or not.”
State lawmakers, at the governor’s urging, voted to remove the Confederate flag after Dylann Roof was charged with killing nine people at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, and pictures surfaced of Roof displaying the Confederate flag as part of his white supremacist beliefs.
But Marion Hutson, also wearing a replica Confederate soldier’s uniform at the Statehouse Tuesday, said, “Our governor did not make the right decision. That flag, nor that gun killed those innocent people in Charleston. That was a tragic situation, but they just used that to get the flag off the Statehouse. I wonder what would have happened if that boy had been waving the American flag on TV? Would they have taken all the American flags down?”
Both men can have several ancestors who fought for the South in the war. As they and others stood at the monument, some cars honked in support, while some drivers made obscene gestures. When asked what they would say to people who see the Confederate flag as a symbol of slavery and oppression, Rentz said, “I certainly do not advocate slavery, but slavery was legal in the United States, and it’s not something that we invented because in Biblical times there were slaves.”
Hutson said, “Slavery would have ended, by what I can gather reading articles, newspaper articles, in about 10 years. The state of Virginia was already drawing up plans to free the slaves, and with the cotton gin and the industrial period there wouldn’t have been a need for slavery.”
Both men have been part of the honor guard on Confederate Memorial Day for most of the last 30 years, and both vow to be back every year they’re able.