YORK COUNTY, S.C. - A judge denied a man's petition Thursday to put the Confederate flag and portraits back in the York County courthouse.
The flag used to hang in the main courtroom and was removed during renovations, but Clerk of Court David Hamilton decided not to put the flag and portraits of two Confederate generals back in the courtroom.
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Streets were blocked off around the courthouse as Confederate flag supporters and opponents gathered ahead of the hearing.
"That is our Southern history and it should not be taken down, should not be taken away, should not be hid," said Alice Harkey.
Flag opponent Dynique Roseboro said the flag doesn't belong in a public courthouse.
"The flag will not bring peace and unity in our community. If they want to say it's part of history, they should have a museum," Roseboro said.
Russell Walker of Aberdeen, North Carolina, filed a lawsuit in June against York County Clerk of Court David Hamilton, asking a judge to force Hamilton to return the flag and pictures to the main courtroom. The lawsuit alleges the S.C. Heritage Act allows only the legislature to move Confederate items in public buildings.
The biggest issue that Judge Jack Kimball had was that Walker does not live in North Carolina.
The judge asked Walker how the issue affected him because he does not live in the state, and then ruled he didn't have any standing to make the petition in the first place.
Walker doesn't own property or pay taxes in South Carolina.
But Walker asked the judge to enforce the state's Heritage Act, which protects historic monuments and memorials.
The judge said there has not been a court case yet to establish whether or not the law applies to buildings.
Walker told Channel 9 on Thursday the flag is a religious symbol for him.
The York County Clerk of Court released a statement after the hearing:
"As the Clerk of Court for York County for over 20 years, I have strived to maintain the integrity of the
people who have elected me to represent them. The law clearly states that the Clerk of Court has
“charge” of the courthouse and I have upheld that responsibility for over two decades and continue to
operate the York County Courthouse with the highest of standards to serve the people of York County.
Since the reopening of the York County Historical Courthouse in January of this year, I was put into the
position of making a decision that interests the citizens of York County as well as many people from all
over the United States of America. I have received hundreds of emails and countless telephone calls
regarding the flags and portraits that were inside the courtroom prior to the renovation and have
listened to these concerns.
The renovation of the Historical Courthouse took several years and I was not going to make a hasty
decision that could potentially cause irrevocable harm to the people of this County. I clearly could not
make a decision that would be favorable to everyone involved. Therefore, I reached out to the South
Carolina Attorney General for an Opinion as to whether or not any items that were inside the courtroom
prior to the renovation would fall under the Heritage Act and if so, where these items could be placed in
order to comply with the Act. To date, I have not received that Opinion.
When I was first sworn in as York County Clerk of Court in 1997, I took an Oath of Office to exercise the
duties of the office to which I was elected. I promised to discharge the duties thereof and to preserve
and protect and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States, so help me God. I took
that Oath seriously then and it remains my Oath today.
It is my goal that this matter be resolved quickly and smoothly."
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