Former S.C. Secessionist Party founder apologizes, calls for end of flagging events

Former S.C. Secessionist Party founder apologizes, calls for end of flagging events
James Bessenger who formed and led the now-defunct South Carolina Secessionist Party called for the end of weekly Confederate flag demonstrations in an apology he released Sunday. (Source: Live 5/File)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The man who formed and led the now-defunct South Carolina Secessionist Party called for the end of Confederate flag demonstrations in an apology he released Sunday.

James Bessenger said he started the party in 2015, which he called a Confederate Heritage activism organization, in what he interpreted as "an unjust assault on the history and integrity of those who came before us in our city and our state."

"I eventually learned, however, that those in the Confederate Heritage Community who genuinely wish to preserve the cultural, historical, and academic value of the Confederacy are greatly and irreversibly outnumbered by those who have far less honorable motives," Bessenger wrote in the statement.

But he said the Confederate flag displays have "undeniably brought more harm to our community that good, I eventually learned, however, that those in the Confederate Heritage Community who genuinely wish to preserve the cultural, historical, and academic value of the Confederacy are greatly and irreversibly outnumbered by those who have far less honorable motives."

He called on the ending of "Flagging of the Charleston Battery" and said he wanted to personally apologize for the impact the party, which was disbanded in 2019, has had on the state.

Here is Bessenger's full statement:

On Sunday August 16th, 2015 I organized the first Confederate Flag rally at the Charleston Battery following the call to remove Confederate landmarks after the horrific shooting at Mother Emmanuel. Since then, nearly every weekend, there have been individuals displaying Confederate Flags of various types at the Confederate Defenders Monument in White Point Garden. Months later, I went on to form and chair The South Carolina Secessionist Party, a Confederate Heritage activism organization, responsible for countless events across South Carolina between 2015 and 2019. At the time, it was a response to what I interpreted as an unjust assault on the history and integrity of those who came before us in our city and our State. As a veteran myself, I have always been of the belief the sacrifices made by individual Confederate Soldiers during the war as exclusive from the political and personal agendas of those who controlled and manipulated the racist organization which was the Confederate Government. I eventually learned, however, that those in the Confederate Heritage Community who genuinely wish to preserve the cultural, historical, and academic value of the Confederacy are greatly and irreversibly outnumbered by those who have far less honorable motives.

The protests at the Battery have gone on now longer than the War Between the States itself. The People of Charleston have been more than gracious in their tolerance and understanding toward these weekly demonstrations, and for that I could not be more proud of our City. Despite the actions of the lawless individuals last night, Charleston was, is, and will continue to be a shining example of class and grace for the rest of the nation. Nevertheless, that shine will always have opportunities to grow brighter and more clear, and every citizen of the city can and must do our part to ensure that glow continues to grow.

The Confederate Flag displays have undeniably brought more harm to our community than good, without achieving its intended purpose of educating the public and sharing a message. While there will always be those who justifiably hold their ancestors and their sacrifices in their hearts, the heart and museums are now, in my opinion, the only justifiable places for such sentiments. The pain, fear, anger, and uncertainty that such displays project do nothing to edify and unite our community. While I cannot undo the hurt, grief, fear, and apprehension that the weekly flagging’s at the battery have caused countless passersby, I pray that I can play a part in putting an end to this unnecessary, unproductive legacy. Therefore, on behalf of the people of Charleston, myself, and our city, I call on the discontinuation of the Flagging of the Charleston Battery and I would like to personally apologize from the depths of my heart for the impact The South Carolina Secessionist Party has had on our community, our city, our State, and its people, as well as that being caused by these remnants of the organization today. I pray diligently for the forgiveness of the People, and look forward to opportunities to be more productive in the future.

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