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Mother suing S.C. Secessionist Party after children photographed holding Confederate flags

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Supporters and members of the South Carolina Secessionist Party during a past Confederate battle flag display at White Point Garden in Charleston. File/Matthew Fortner/Staff

A North Charleston mother is suing the Secessionist Party of South Carolina after two of her children were photographed holding Confederate flag images and their pictures were posted on social media.

The children are both black and under the age of 10, and the post made them subject to ridicule, the suit says.

The event reportedly occurred last June at The Battery in downtown Charleston.

According to the lawsuit, filed by mother Alicia Greene, the Secessionist group was holding one of its many pro-flag rallies to spread "the love to All of our Southern Brothers and Sisters," an invitation included in the court document states.

It was the same day that Secessionist Party leader James Bessenger was struck by a car during the event.

First-responders, including a firetruck, showed up, drawing the children's attention. The family had been visiting White Point Garden for a picnic.

At one point, the children got away from the mother. Later that day, photographs began to appear on social media of the two children holding the Confederate images.

Greene didn't know about the photographs until she returned home and the pictures of her children had gone viral, accompanied by numerous online running comments.

Charleston Attorney Roy Willey IV said one goal of the suit is to prevent instances such as this from happening again in which a minor child is made to take part in a political display covering a period of U.S. history they know nothing about.

The suit contends the children were coerced into being photographed with the Confederate images after initially refusing. Also, the shots were done without Greene's permission.

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"The mother really wants to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else," Willey said.

Such public ridicule should not be "acceptable in civil society" to minor children of any race, Willey said, including if they are white and "not knowing what they are holding."

The pictures were later taken down.

The civil suit, filed in Charleston County, alleges various claims, including emotional distress and defamation. It seeks punitive and actual damages.

Bessenger is also named in the suit.

Reached Wednesday, Bessenger said he had not seen the lawsuit but that members of his group remember the children asking for the Confederate images, adding they were flag stickers, not actual flags.

He doubted the suit would go anywhere, saying that whatever transpired had occurred in a public space.

"It sounds ridiculous to me," he said, adding that the group has no assets to target.

"I, nor the party, have any money," he said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

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