CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A pro-Confederacy group in South Carolina must break up, and if they ever get back together they must pay a black mother and her two children $3 million for posting pictures of the children holding Confederate memorabilia without their mother's permission, a judge ruled.
The Secessionist Party reached the agreement with the mother in court Thursday, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported.
The Secessionist Party was holding a rally to support the Confederate flag in Charleston in June 2017, and the children were at a picnic nearby with their family when they and other children were attracted to a firetruck, according to the lawsuit.
A member of the Secessionist Party came up to the 7-year-old and the 8-year-old, gave them a small Confederate flag and told them to hold it low and against their body so their mother couldn't see it, then took their pictures, the lawsuit said.
The pictures were posted on the group's Facebook page hours later under the heading "Spreading the love to ALL our Southern Brothers and Sisters," the lawsuit said.
The children's mother told her lawyers that she received so many hateful messages about the photos she had to shut down her own Facebook page.
As part of the agreement, the Secessionist Party did not appear in court as the settlement was finalized. The party agreed to pay the Charleston NAACP $1,000 and disband.
Judge Alex Kinlaw Jr. agreed with the settlement that also ordered the $3 million payment if they ever get back together.
The chairman of the Secessionist Party, James Bessenger, said earlier this year that the group was disbanding because the people who liked the Confederacy and its ideas were being outnumbered by racists.
Over the past several years, the group has staged Confederate-flag waving rallies in prominent public locations across the state.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has said South Carolina's group is a minor player in the bigger pro-Confederate movement.
"This is a big day for our community, for South Carolina as a state and for the nation," said Charleston attorney Roy Willey IV, who represented the family. "We have no doubt that while we have financially bankrupted a morally bankrupt organization, hate still exists."
Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com