Patty Bynum of Greenville exercised her Constitutional right this past Monday evening to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Being the first on a long list of speakers who addressed the seven-member council on a variety of topics, Bynum expressed her dismay at the sight of a number of small Confederate flags in the downtown, city-owned Springwood Cemetery.
These flags, which have been placed there by private individuals, stand as sentinels beside the graves of the hundreds of Confederate soldiers buried in Greenville's oldest burial ground.
Just inside the cemetery, near the Main Street entrance, are the grave markers of over 100 unknown Confederate dead, all of which are accompanied by flags. Many more flag-adorned Confederate graves are scattered throughout the cemetery.
Bynum told council that, on a visit last summer by her brother, who lives out of town, the two were walking along Main Street when they walked past the cemetery and saw the small flags, which she admits she had never noticed before. She said that the flags made a strong negative impression on her brother. She believes that many out-of-towners would react the same way and would feel unwelcome.
“I just think we need to stop this,” she said, expressing her belief that the “sea” of flags don't represent Greenville.
While Bynum was the only individual to complain about the flags, more than two dozen local members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, many of whom also addressed the council, showed up in support of the flags, which they claim represent their heritage.
Rossie Meadows, a board member of the 16th Regiment SC Volunteers Confederate Museum and Library, was the first supporter to address the council. He reminded the council that the museum is one of the top five tourist attractions in Greenville. He said that out-of-town tourists who visit the museum make complimentary remarks about the cemetery. He urged the council to do more to promote Greenville's Southern heritage. He also said that the flags help people to conduct research on their ancestry.
Meadows, a sixth-generation Greenvillian, expressed dismay at those who would insult his Southern heritage and the memory of his Confederate ancestors. “The progressive groups that want to change history are very dangerous and destructive to our country,” he warned. Four years ago in these pages this writer wrote about the defacing of Confederate monuments and grave markers in the Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.
William Grissop asserted that the veterans did not fight for slavery. “They went to war to defend their wives and their children and their mommas and their churches,” he said, adding, “Whoever doesn't like those little flags doesn't know their history.”
Hunter Meadows, another flag supporter, said, “This month is Black History Month, and while all other ethnicities and cultures in America are encouraged to celebrate their heritage, we are told that we are not welcome – anywhere.”
While taking photos of the flags at the cemetery the next morning, this writer encountered a woman from Ohio named Pam who was perusing the Confederate grave markers and flags. She was visiting Greenville with her husband, who was on a business trip.
During a brief conversation, Pam, a self-described Northerner, expressed support for the flags and Southern heritage and lamented that true history is not being taught to today's schoolchildren.