South Carolina's secessionist ball draws protesters, celebrators

The StateDecember 20, 2010 

Jeremy Darby, 23, center, joins others in protesting the South Carolina Theatrical Performance and Secession Gala on Monday, December 20, 2010, in Charleston, South Carolina. The gala, hosted by the Confederate Heritage Trust, Inc., commemorates the 150-year anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the Union.

C. ALUKA BERRY / THE STATE / MCT

CHARLESTON, S.C. — White and black. Pro-Confederacy. Anti-Confederacy.

A secession ball, one of the first major events to mark the 150th anniversary of the events that led to the Civil War, divided many Charlestonians on Monday night and got sesquicentennial commemorations off to a divisive start.

Ball organizers and roughly 120 people who gathered in front of Gaillard Auditorium to protest the ball were separated by the glass doors of the auditorium, a row of four police officers – and more than a century of thought on how the Civil War should be viewed today.

“We are celebrating the bravery and the tenacity of people who were protecting their homes from invasion,” said Michael Givens, commander-in-chief of the S.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans, a major sponsor of the ball.

“This is a celebration of one of the darkest periods in our history,” said Melvin Poole, president of the Rock Hill branch of the NAACP, which organized a march to protest the ball.

The ball capped a day of division that saw Charleston Mayor Joe Riley heckled when he asserted that the war was fought because of slavery. Riley was speaking as a new historical marker was unveiled where South Carolinians signed the Ordinance of Secession exactly 150 years before

“You’re a liar!” was shouted as Riley talked about the direct relationship between slavery and secession.

“That the cause of this disastrous secession was an expressed need to protect the inhumane and immoral institution of slavery is undeniable,” Riley said.

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