Residents in Mount Pleasant and around the state were targeted Friday morning with automated phone calls from a group calling upon them to urge legislators to “leave our flag alone and not stand with leftist fanatics who want to destroy the South we love.”
Calls to remove the Confederate flag from its place in front of the Statehouse began after the June 17 killing of nine people, including a state senator, at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, allegedly by an avowed white supremacist who is pictured with a Confederate flag in photos on the Internet.
On June 22, Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag to be taken down and placed in a museum. Other civic, academic and business leaders joined in calling for the flag’s removal. According to a Post and Courier poll of state legislators, there is sufficient support in both houses of the state Legislature to remove the flag.
But supporters of the Confederate flag are campaigning to change legislators’ minds.
One resident said the call, and its tone, were downright scary. The caller speaks in shrill tones as if to sound some sort of alarm. He makes liberal use of terms made popular by social media, such as “haters.” He also equates those who want to see the flag removed from Statehouse grounds with ISIS and President Barack Obama.
Here is a transcript of the call:
“Don’t think the PC haters will stop if Governor Haley gets her way, and the Confederate memorial is taken down and hidden away in a museum. Just like ISIS, Obama’s haters want our monuments down, graves dug up and schools roads towns and counties renamed. They’ve even taken the “Dukes of Hazzard” off TV.”
The recording goes on to urge the listener to contact a local representative, in the case of the call aimed at Mount Pleasant residents, it was state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, and urge him to leave the flag alone. The recording says the call was paid for by the Conservative Response Team.
A visit to the Facebook page for Conservative Response Team shows a steady stream of recent posts about perceived attacks on conservative values, including removal of the Confederate flag from places of honor on government properties. In an update posted Friday the group claims it dropped nearly 40,000 robocalls spread out over 26 House districts Friday morning. Other media outlets in South Carolina also have reported that residents have received the robocalls.
Attempts to reach Chip Limehouse on Saturday for comment were unsuccessful. He is listed in The Post and Courier’s live poll of state legislators as being in favor of removing the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds.
Also Saturday, the second “Take the Flag Down SC” rally brought several hundred people to the Statehouse. Organizers say they wanted to show South Carolina is united behind America on Independence Day.
A few counter protesters with Confederate flags of their own came, but both sides remained peaceful. The first rally was held two weeks ago, before Haley called for the flag to be removed.
Another rally in support of removing the flag is to be held Monday at noon at the Statehouse. This one is being organized by the National Action Network.
The Confederate flew atop the Statehouse dome from 1962 until 2000, when as part of a compromise it was moved from its place above the dome to a pole in the Confederate Soldiers’ Memorial in front of the Statehouse. Confederate flags also were removed from both chambers of the Legislature at that time.
Lawmakers are set to begin debating the flag’s future Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.