South Carolina Requests Court to Remove Racist Couple from Home for Harassing Black Neighbors

South Carolina officials have asked a judge to order a white couple to leave their property after they allegedly burnt a cross near the home of their Black Army veteran neighbors.

In a request filed on January 26, special prosecutor James Battle alleged that Conway residents Worden Butler and Alexis Hartnett “harassed, assaulted, and threatened their neighbours and people in the public areas surrounding their home.”

Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson has filed a temporary injunction, urging the court to designate the suspects’ residence as a public nuisance.

Mr. Butler, 28, and Ms. Hartnett, 27, were arrested on state harassment charges and later freed on bond after retired neighbors Monica and Shawn Williams captured video of the crucifix being burned outside their yard gate during Thanksgiving weekend.

The Williams had been celebrating the holidays with relatives when the attack occurred.

According to a police complaint, Ms Harett allegedly directed a racist insult at the Williams while being interviewed by officers.

According to the Horry County Police Department, Mr. Butler also allegedly posted an image of the victims’ mailbox with their address on Facebook, stating that he was “summoning the devil’s army and I don’t care if they and I both go down in the same boat.”

Although South Carolina is one of only two states that do not impose additional punishments for hate crimes, Mr. Richardson has maintained that state law authorizes authorities to shut down public nuisances that constitute a “continuous breach of the peace.”

If Mr Richardson’s injunction is granted, Mr Butler and Ms Hartnett may be removed from their home for up to a year.

“It’s a start, and it sends a message not just in Conway, but throughout the South,” Ms Williams told WFBM. “This behavior will not be tolerated and everyone has the right to live in peace and harmony with themselves without being targeted because of their skin color.”

The FBI has opened a separate inquiry into the incident.

Mr Butler and Ms. Harnett are scheduled to appear in court in March.

Cross burnings in the United States are “symbols of hate” that are “inextricably intertwined with the history of the Ku Klux Klan,” according to a 2003 Supreme Court opinion written by the late Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The judges concluded that bans on cross-burnings are permissible under the First Amendment only when they are intended to intimidate since the activity “is a particularly virulent form of intimidation.”


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