Back in 1989, Hurricane Hugo beached a small boat in among the oleander bushes near Folly Beach. No one claimed it, so artists dubbed it the “Folly Boat” and began painting it, eventually gaining official approval from the city of Charleston. The boat has seen so many layers that, at least once a decade, inches-thick skins of paint slough off the surface.
Now, as the second anniversary of the fatal shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston nears, the city’s residents are warring over the boat, painting it as part of an ongoing debate about the Confederate flag.
Dylan Roof, the Emanuel AME shooter, embraced the Confederate flag as a symbol of his white supremacy, posing alongside it in Facebook photos. After murdering nine people, Roof confessed that the shooting was racially motivated; his roommates said Roof supported segregation and sought to “start a civil war.”
The shootings prompted state lawmakers to vote on displaying the Confederate flag at their state capitol, eventually opting to remove it on July 10, 2015. The South Carolina Secessionist Party has protested this decision, appearing at the statehouse each July 10, lifting the Confederate banner on their own.
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And two days before the anniversary of the shooting, the South Carolina Secessionist Party also painted Confederate flags on the iconic Charleston boat and writing “June 10th #DixieRising” and “Remember the 260,000,” a reference to Southern casualties during the Civil War.
Other residents rushed to erase the message, painting over the Confederate flag and writing “Hope, Equality, Love,” on the side of the Folly Boat.
Michelle Melton, a local woman, said after she saw the photo on social media, she hurried to the boat with a roller and red spray paint; by the time she got there, 15 others had already arrived, setting to work painting over the Confederate flag, according to the local ABC affiliate.
Chrys Blackstone, another resident who showed up with a can of paint, said, “What a wonderful place we have where somebody can come and put this up, and somebody can come right behind them and take it down.”
In response, the Secessionist Party’s leader told the Post and Courier he “will probably make this a regular thing” to paint Confederate flags on the Folly Boat.
Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.