That’s where the local attorney spotted it, though, and on the same pole hosting the state flag, too – even right above the Palmetto Moon.
As a result, Hamilton says, no public building – certainly not a City Hall and courthouse – should display the political image.
But while the city’s using the flag to send a message, says Ryan Johnson with the mayor’s office, that message isn’t of any politically partisan intentions.
North Charleston has flown the Gadsden at 2500 City Hall Ln since June 9. In a press release from that date, Mayor Keith Summey said “Don’t Tread on Me” was used to protest the planned location of a new intermodal rail in the city’s old Navy base facilities.
South Carolina Public Railways plans a new rail line at the northern end of the base, now part of the Port of Charleston, for use by Norfolk Southern. It’s needed to provide the railroad company with equal access, SC Public Railways says, since its sole port competitor (CSX) has near-dock accessibility to the southern end of the base.
That new line could block planned development of a new residential and business district in North Charleston, however, Summey says.
Summey’s message isn’t what’s the matter, though, says Hamilton, who agrees with the mayor’s protest. “The city probably has a legitimate gripe with State Government over the proposed location of the railroad line.”
The problem, he argues, is the political context and association the flag now carries, which Hamilton says some mayor’s staff told him they were unaware of.
“I’m certainly not comfortable taking clients in court cases into the building,” he says, referring to the political polarity some can take the flag to indicate while it projects from a facility in which only nonpartisan fairness is expected.
“They should pick a different flag (to indicate their protest),” Hamilton says, offering the basic red “stop” flag railways traditionally use as an example.
North Charleston City Hall is just the latest use of the Gadsden flag upon local government property that’s come to light recently. Two weeks ago, public complaints were issued about “Don’t Tread on Me” vanity plates found on particular Summerville Police Dept. vehicles, and from both sides of the political spectrum.
"All symbols take on a completely different meaning and that's exactly what's happened to the Gadsden," Eiser told the local Summerville Patch. "At one time it was very American but because it is now a symbol of the Tea Party, it's no longer very American. It is very right … You can't protect the good of the community if you are showing you are one way or another."
Responding two weeks ago to questions about potential ethics violations in such use of the symbol by Summerville police, state Ethics Commission counsel Cathy Hazelwood said “if the municipality allows this logo, then any other political movement should have its logo on the vehicle,” offering the example of “a Tea Party logo on one side and a Move.On on the other.”
Sections 8-13-765 and 8-13-1346 of the South Carolina Code of Laws stipulate that state no government property or public equipment can be used in any political manner, including display of political logos and campaign messages.
Asked today to comment about its use upon North Charleston City Hall, Hazelwood offered a more reserved response. “Although I realize a certain group has co-opted the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag, that group is not a political party,” she said.
The Gadsen Flag became the adopted symbol of the national organization in 2009, and the Tea Party is now an actual registered political party in the state of Florida.
While not registered in South Carolina, the Tea Party informally merged with the state’s GOP in 2010. Karen Floyd, then chair of SCGOP, said the goal was to create liaisons and merge goals between their similar organizations.
Last year, the Gadsden flag was blocked from display on public buildings in Rhode Island and Connecticut due to the image’s association with the Tea Party.
Other related news:
Political plates on cop cars must move, says SEC
SCGOP forced to boot county execs after ‘shoot a cop’ comments
Latest SC Tea Party crime – pirated software