SC mom sues group for 'coercing' African-American kids to pose with Confederate flags

The Confederate battle flag remains a controversial symbol in the South.
The Confederate battle flag remains a controversial symbol in the South.

A South Carolina mother has filed a civil lawsuit against the state's Secessionist Party, claiming its members placed Confederate battle flags in the hands of her African-American children, photographed the scene and posted the images on social media.

The mother, Alicia Greene, says she and two children, both under age 10, experienced a backlash after the photos appeared on Facebook under such hashtags as #Dixie Rising and #TeachTheYouthTheTruth.

The slogans refer to the Secessionist Party's efforts to defend such symbols as the Confederate battle flag, which critics say is a racist icon. The party describes itself as a "a non-profit heritage defense and political activism organization."

Greene filed the suit Friday in Charleston County, and named both the party and its leader, James Bessenger, as defendants.

In the lawsuit, Greene says the family was involved in a picnic on June 24, 2017 at White Point Gardens in Charleston, when her children walked a short distance away to admire a fire truck that had responded to a traffic accident.

Members of the Secessionist Party were participating in a nearby rally and approached the children at the fire truck and asked them to pose for a photograph holding Confederate battle flags, Greene says in the lawsuit. The children refused, but were then "coerced" into posing, say the lawsuit.

Later that same day, Greene says she was alerted via comments on her Facebook page that photos of her children with the flags were on social media. The lawsuit includes comments allegedly posted in response to the photos, which called the image "disturbing" and "disgusting." Some posts also questioned where the children's guardian was when the photo was taken, according to the lawsuit.

Greene says the photos, which were later removed, exploited and defamed her children, causing emotional distress. The critical response was such that Greene says she feared for their safety, and eventually took down her own Facebook page, due to the "social media onslaught."

The Charleston Post & Courier reports the two children were ages 7 and 8 at the time of the incident.

Secessionist Party James Bessenger leader told the Post & Courier Wednesday had not seen the lawsuit, but called it "ridiculous" and said members of his group remember the children asking for the Confederate flag stickers, which were not actual flags.

He said doubted the suit would go anywhere, telling the Post & Courier whatever transpired had occurred in a public space.

A specific amount sought for damages was not listed in the lawsuit.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs