ORANGEBURG, S.C. — A confederate flag flies high above a South Carolina restaurant, and while some customers hate it and others revere it, the restaurant’s owner can’t do anything about it.
The flag flies atop a pole right next to the sign for the Edisto River Creamery, but it’s owner says he can’t remove the divisive symbol, even though he would like to.
That’s because the location used to belong to Maurice Bessinger, a politician, activist and founder of Maurice’s Piggie Park barbecue restaurants across central South Carolina. He was a fierce defender of states’ rights and segregation, and spoke out against the Civil Rights Act and integration of public schools in his 2004 autobiography.
Bessinger also flew the confederate flag outside his stores, writing, “there they will stay. I will fight on because this is what god wants me to do.”
A year after Bessinger’s death in 2014, Tommy Daras and his wife bought the Orangeburg location from Bessinger’s children – but not all of it. Before Bessinger died, he sold the tiny bit of land surrounding the flagpole for just $5 to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 842.
Initially, Daras accepted the flag and the nearby marker, but that changed weeks after his grand opening, when the group flew a larger flag in the aftermath of the 2015 church shooting in Charleston. Dylann Roof killed nine church members after calling for a race war.
Daras said after that his windows were broken out, and he faced vehement opposition from people in the community. Employees were harassed. But although he wants the flag removed, the Sons of Confederate Veterans say it will remain where it is.
The case will likely end up in court, as the Daras’ attorney says their land sale records show no exception for the area where the flagpole is planted.