A circuit judge on Thursday ruled in favor of a Black mother who filed suit against a South Carolina neo-Confederate organization, effectively disbanding the group.
Alicia Greene sued the S.C. Secessionist Party last year after her kids were photographed holding Confederate flags and their pictures were posted on social media, according to the Post and Courier.
Judge Alex Kinlaw Jr., the first Black circuit judge elected for Greenville, sided with the mom, ordering the Secessionist Party to dissolve all its online assets and organizing power, as well as pay $1,000 to the Charleston NAACP. Should the group reactivate, they’d have to pay $1 million each to Greene and her two children.
A lawyer for the organization waived his right to appear and agreed to the terms of the agreement, the newspaper reported.
Kinlaw expressed frustration over the incident, saying it’s a shame “we are still dealing with that kind of stuff” in 2019.
“If we just love one another, all of this stuff will go away,” he told the court.
Community leaders praised the judge’s decision, calling it a step in the right direction for a city that’s still grappling with its past ties to slavery and the Civil War.
“This is a big day for our community, for South Carolina as a state and for the nation,” said Charleston attorney Roy Willey IV, who represented Greene and her family. “We have no doubt that while we have financially bankrupted a morally bankrupt organization, hate still exists. People will still appear with hate in their hearts and with the flag. But today is a very big step forward in the right direction for our community.”
The Secessionist Party was holding one of its pro-Confederate flag rallies on June 24, 2017, to spread “the love to all our Southern Brothers and Sisters,” according to court documents. Greene and her family were enjoying a picnic at the White Point Garden when their attention was drawn by a firetruck and emergency responders who arrived on scene. The organization’s founder, James Bessenger, who’s named in the suit, had been struck by a car during the event.
At some point, Greene’s children got away from her. She would get on Facebook later that day to see photos of her kids holding Confederate flags. The frustrated mother said the purpose her complaint was to ensure something like this “never happened to anyone else,” according to the settlement.
Months after the suit was filed, Bessenger announced that the group, which boasted about 25,000 members, would dissolve. In January, the party’s leader lamented that the group was “taking a turn I didn’t want it to take” and that those genuinely interested in Confederate history were being outnumbered by “blatant and racist homophobes,” the Anderson Independent Mail reported.
Local leaders described the Secessionist Party as a hate group and vowed to continue fighting racism and other forms of discrimination. The organization has six months to dissolve all operations.