James Bessenger — who is disbanding the south Carolina Secessionist Party — had tiny company on one side of George Street throughout a black color Lives issue demonstration Feb. 22, 2017. The show gained more attention as soon as the late Muhiyidin Elamin Moye, who went by Muhiyidin d’Baha, to be charged v disorderly conduct and damage to an individual property after the attempted come grab the Confederate battle flag from Bessenger. File/Wade Spees/Staff


James Bessenger, chairman of the south Carolina Secessionist Party, talks with Shakem Amen Akhet (Johnathan Thrower) of the Charleston black color Nationalist Movement, left, in Marion Square. The occasion was a plan rally by the Charleston chapter of democratic Socialists that America calling for the removed of 2 Confederate monuments top top Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff


James Bessenger want to think the best in the defenders that Confederate heritage when he started the south Carolina Secessionist Party in 2014.

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Despite the group"s name, his intent was not to mountain a modern-day call for southern Carolina to secede indigenous the Union a 2nd time. Instead, Bessenger claimed he created it hoping his group could discuss history, the polite War and also its affect on southern culture.

But Bessenger, that is 30, gay and pagan, stated a current email from an additional Confederate heritage team member opened up his eyes to the darker next of the movement, prompting him to walk away entirely from his years-long public struggle defending the battle flag and other Confederate symbols.

"I entered this reasoning that the civilization who wave the flag that space racist, i really did believe that they were the substantial minority," the said, "and the the civilization genuinely interested in the history, the education and also the academia that the Confederacy were the majority. Now, I"m encouraged that"s not the case."

The beginning

Bessenger claimed he established the S.C. Secessionist Party as an alternate to the southern Carolina division of the boy of Confederate Veterans.

The organization, which Bessenger later joined, support Confederate symbols and honors the southerly soldiers who battled in the War in between the States.

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Members that the southern Carolina Secessionist Party in Charleston commonly display the Confederate battle flag in ~ White point Garden. Matthew Fortner/Staff

The southern Carolina division of the SCV boasts more than 3,000 members across an ext than 60 camps statewide, follow to that website.

Bessenger claimed he was sent a Jan. 26 email composed by Randy Burbage, that is both the SCV S.C. Division Judge Advocate and a member that the Charleston-based SCV Camp 4. In the email, Burbage writes around his disdain for Bessenger.

"He is gay, the won"t stand for the Pledge the Allegiance and also he is an atheist. Three strikes and you space out. Basic as that," Burbage wrote in the email.

Bessenger stated he construed the email to average he is not welcome in the Confederate heritage community as a gay, non-Christian man. Bessenger stated he likewise fears the the larger Confederate heritage motion is attracting "a bunch of racists and homophobes."

"I"ve always been an outlier in the Confederate heritage movement because I"m not a straight, Republican white man," said Bessenger, who additionally claimed he has actually heard SCV members casually usage the N-word at consistent meetings. 

Burbage confirmed he wrote the email yet denied gift racist or homophobic. Burbage claimed the email was sent privately come his brother and also was not meant for public consumption.

Burbage likewise told The Post and also Courier that Bessenger"s sexual orientation and religious preferences do not disqualify the from being a SCV member.

"I never intended it come come throughout as factors for him not to it is in a part of ours organization," claimed Burbage, who stated the factor he doesn"t choose Bessenger has actually nothing to carry out with whom he loves or how he worships. "What I expected by the statement to be that i didn"t personally desire to associate through him."

Different courses

Bessenger"s team has staged continuous so-called "flaggings" in i m sorry Bessenger and a few other team members wave Confederate flags at very visible areas, consisting of Charleston parking garages, the Battery and also highway overpasses.

The group painted the Confederate fight flag ~ above the landmark Folly boat on at least two occasions and is responsible because that at the very least two Confederate flag screens in Clemson because September. 

SCV, on the other hand, has actually maintained a reduced profile as soon as pushing that is agenda.

Jamie Graham, S.C. Department commander that the SCV and member the the SCV Litchfield Camp No. 132 in Conway, denies Bessenger"s claim that southern heritage teams are attracting racists and also homophobic members.

Graham additionally said he has actually never heard any kind of South Carolina SCV member usage the N-word, and that the team has African-American members and gay members, too.

"We"ve obtained a gay member in mine camp below in Conway," the said. "It"s a non-issue for us. I"ve got a cousin who is gay. It"s no what ns practice, yet what someone else does in the privacy of their home is your business."

Differing opinions

Graham pushed back, speak the real reason the S.C. Secessionist Party is disbanding is because of its i can not qualify to attract members to its cause.

"The Secession Party thought about themselves a heritage group, but as much as really being in the fight, every they did was flaggings and also protests," Graham said. "But when you have an ext protesters protesting you than you have people arriving to protest, there"s an worry there."

One issue additionally still lingers end the S.C. Secessionist Party: A sue filed against the team by a black North Charleston mom after 2 of her children, who room black together well, to be photographed at the Charleston Battery holding Confederate flags and also their pictures were climate posted on social media.

The suit asserted the social media write-ups made her children subject come ridicule.

Bessenger said he has actually notified the attorneys in the suit the his group is disbanding but has no heard something back.

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For now, Bessenger has actually been digitally erasing his group, taking down its facebook page and also website. He has stopped check the email attend to for it, too.

"I"ve been also jaded," he said. "I can"t commit any more energy to this movement."