The Gadsden flag — the coiled rattlesnake above the words “Don’t tread on me” — has been a symbol of resistance to government oppression since the Revolutionary War.

It’s also used by the tea party movement, and some say that’s why it shouldn’t be flying on a state-funded crane working on the Folly Beach bridges.

Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said he got several calls that it wasn’t right to have a political symbol on a crane operating with taxpayers’ money.

Replacing the two bridges is an S.C. Department of Transportation project. DOT has hired Cape Romain Contractors of Charleston to bring in several cranes, including the one with the flag on it.

“We had some complaints about the flag, that this was tax money building the bridges, so we asked them if they would consider taking the flag off,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin had City Building Official Eric Lutz pass on the message to project managers.

“We really don’t have any authority to tell them to remove it,” Lutz said. “All we can do is ask them politely.”

DOT and Cape Romain managers sent Lutz emails saying the flag will come down Friday when the crane is taken down for maintenance.

The Gadsden flag originated during the Revolutionary War as a symbol of resistance to the British. The Charleston Tea Party has the symbol on its website.

“I suppose that’s a fair connection to make, but the Gadsden flag has a rich history in South Carolina,” Charleston Tea Party spokeswoman Joanne Jones said when told of the Folly flag flap.

The city of North Charleston flew the flag in front of City Hall for a year and a half during the city’s battle with the state over the path of a new rail line from the port.

A crane working on the Folly bridges was flying an American flag several months ago until somebody complained that it was getting too tattered, Lutz said.

“It seems like they just can’t win,” he said.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.