A South Carolina ice cream shop is in the middle of a Confederate flag controversy

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Let’s be clear:  Tommy Daras, the owner of the Edisto River Creamery, an ice cream shop in Orangeburg, S.C. (population 13,000) is not an advocate of the Confederate flag. But now the small business owner finds himself in the middle of a controversy about one.

Here’s why.

There was once man who lived in Orangeburg named Maurice Bessinger and, unlike Daras, Bessinger was a big advocate of the Confederate flag.  In fact, and according to this report by North Carolina’s Fox TV station, Bessinger–a former politician and entrepreneur, had a collection of Confederate memorabilia that he used to decorate his Maurice’s Piggie Park barbeque restaurants throughout the state. Prior to his death in 2014, he believed that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court ruling that integrated public schools was a “really bad” decision.

When Bessinger sold the land to Daras, he also sold, for five dollars, a small (three-thousandths of an acre) adjacent property to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 842, who erected a tall pole to proudly fly the Confederate flag on it. Unfortunately this has become a major headache for the ice cream store owner because everyone thinks it’s his flag. The headache became a migraine in 2015 after Dylan Roof went on his racially motivated church shooting rampage in Charleston, S.C.

“From that day forward, all hell broke loose for me,” Daras told Fox 8. “My windows were broken out, my phone was ringing off the hook, my employees were harassed. I was fist-fighting with people in the parking lot. Everyone in town assumed it was my property because it looks like it’s attached to this building.” Daras wants the flag removed.

A representative for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 842 told the TV station they have no intention of removing the flag.

Daras had to hire an attorney and made the case to town officials that the flag violates the area’s commercial zoning rules. He lost and plans an appeal.

“That flag needs to be moved and if there’s any possible way that I can do it, it’s going to be done,” Daras said. “Right now, we’re gridlocked.”

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