South Carolina city won't force removal of Confederate flag

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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina city is refusing to order the removal of a Confederate flag from a tiny piece of land in front of an ice cream shop.

An appeals board in Orangeburg decided Thursday in a 6-0 vote that the flag on a 130-square-foot (12-square-meter) parcel in front of Edisto River Creamery doesn't violate the city's zoning laws, local media outlets reported.

The ice cream shop's owner, Tommy Daras, wanted the flag removed, saying it has cost him customers and that he has received threats and racially charged letters.

The land was deeded to the Sons of Confederate Veterans a dozen years ago.

Thursday's decision can be appealed to a Circuit Court within 30 days. Attorney Justin Bamberg, who's also a Democratic state representative, represented Daras and said they'll talk about whether to appeal.

Joseph Braxton with the Sons of Confederate Veterans said if the restaurant appeals, the heritage group will defend its right to fly the flag on its property.

"I hate that it came to this," Braxton said. "I would like to see the Creamery be successful."

Bamberg had asked the city's zoning administrator to rule that the flag violates the business district zoning. The zoning administrator said the ordinance does not regulate flags. The restaurant then asked the appeals board to remove the flag, which the panel refused to do Thursday.

The restaurant was once owned by Maurice Bessinger, who raised Confederate flags on all his establishments in 2000 after the Confederate flag was removed from the Statehouse dome.

In 2005, Bessinger gave the Sons of Confederate Veterans' local group a deed to the tiny piece of land in front of the restaurant. The land holds a historical marker referencing Union Gen. William T. Sherman's crossing of the Edisto River in 1865.

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