Charleston police arrest man who tried to take Confederate flags from S.C. Secessionist Party members

Confederate battle flags fly in Mountain Creek, Ala. on July 19, 2011. 

Charleston police arrested a man Saturday morning after he allegedly assaulted two members of the S.C. Secessionist Party who were flying Confederate flags on The Battery.

Officers were called at 10:08 a.m. to the area of Murray Boulevard and East Battery Street where they found four people on The Battery wall sidewalk, said Charles Francis, a police spokesman, in an email. Officers encountered two men, James Bessenger and Matthew Locke, holding another man, Benjamin Chase, against a railing.

A fourth man, Geoffrey Burke, witnessed the fight that broke out before officers arrived, Francis’ email said. Chase’s city of residence is listed as Moncks Corner. No city of residence was available for the other three men.

Police separated the men and placed Chase, 30, inside a police vehicle, the email said. Bessenger told officers that he was part of a group peacefully standing on the wall holding Confederate flags attached to flag poles.

Chase approached and started discussing how he felt about the flag and what it meant to him, the email said. Bessenger told police Chase tried to grab Locke’s flag but wasn’t able to take it away.

Chase then tried to take Bessenger’s flag and broke the aluminum pole it was attached to, the email said.

“A physical struggle then ensued between Mr. Chase and the victims,” the email said. “During the physical altercation, Mr. Chase grabbed Mr. Locke by the throat with his hands and Mr. Bessenger was struck by Mr. Chase while retrieving his flag.”

The three men declined medical treatment and officers did not note any physical injuries, the email said. Chase was charged with two counts of simple assault and one count of damage to personal property. He will appear in court Aug. 16.

The S.C. Secessionist party posted an account of the incident along with a video on their Facebook page Saturday morning. Party members gather at The Battery every weekend to display Confederate flags.

“These types of incidents have become all too common across the Southland of America,” the post said of the assault.

This is not the first time the weekly display of flags has ended in jail time.

In June, a scuffle broke out at The Battery when a woman broke two small Confederate flags and tried to run away with them.

The woman, later identified by police as Lydia Folckomer, said she grabbed the flags because they upset her. Both she and her father, Paul Folckomer spent the night in jail.

Bessenger, the Secessionist Party’s founder, was also involved in the June 18 incident.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.