Charleston seems to know how to handle things correctly…
Two men who see eye-to-eye on very little stood united in front of Charleston’s City Hall on Tuesday to announce a common goal.
“I know this is a very awkward scene,” said Johnathan Thrower, a black community organizer who also goes by the name Shakem Amen Akhet. “Never before have you seen these two separate factions together standing at one podium.”
Next to him was James Bessenger, chairman of the South Carolina Secessionist Party.
The two men have been communicating via social media for nearly a year and after this weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., sat down to talk over a beer Monday.
“Charleston has every bit of potential to become the next Charlottesville,” Bessenger said. “The only way that we are going to prevent something like that happening is the leadership on both sides to do the right thing and extend the hand of peace to one another.”
The result is “The Charleston Accord,” a document through which both pledged to work together to encourage dialog between communities with opposing beliefs and to discourage and prevent violence.
“What we want to do is show that we can have intelligent discourse amongst each other without violence,” said Thrower. “We want to be responsible with our rhetoric. We can be civil in our actions and still be able to disagree man to man.”
Recently, Bessenger has made headlines as his group has staged “flaggings” during which Bessenger and other group members have waved Confederate flags from Charleston parking garages, the Battery and highway overpasses. They’ve also painted the image on the Folly boat on at least two occasions.
He said Tuesday his group plans to continue that practice, and Thrower said he supports that.
“He has been getting a lot of people agitated and frustrated,” Thrower said. “Our group has also been getting people agitated and frustrated. Our intentions are to let the people know that it’s OK to protest. It’s OK to have different sentiments and feelings and be strong about what you believe.”
Thrower, according to recent Facebook posts, held a press conference on Sunday to proclaim that “no KKK, Nazi or any racist groups will be protesting in Charleston or North Charleston. We will make sure any attempts are stopped.” He pledged to make sure the John C. Calhoun monument in Marion Square is removed.
He has also been part of community events promoting construction jobs in North Charleston, “providing a solution for people who say they can’t get a job due to their criminal record,” and asking students to pledge not to bring guns to school.
“Nobody is compromising their belief system,” Thrower said Tuesday. “We know that if something ever happens … we know that is going to be the tipping point in this city. What we want to do is open up a dialog that is fruitful but we know that we are not going to agree on a lot of things.”