Residents request removal of historic markers

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During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved a resolution honoring Willie Junior Blanding, heard a request to remove historic markers, a complaint about the police department and an update on the Spring Water Festival.

Spring Water Festival Chairman David Meade told council that the town’s signature event will be canceled.
“With lingering concerns with COVID-19 and health concerns of three key members and some support people, it is in the best interest to cancel this year’s festival,” Meade said. “It just wouldn’t be safe for most of our committee members at this time,”
Meade said that as recent as the last week in June, the committee was moving forward with plans for the festival, but with the decision by several of the committee members that the their health concern was too great, it became apparent that festival organizers, already short on help, would be stretched to thin to make it happen.

“I wish we could have it, the 39th year, but it isn’t meant to be,” Meade said. “Hopefully when we get over this COVID situation, we can look at resuming in 2021.”

Bonnie McCullough requested the town remove two historical markers that are located in Mineral Spring Park.
One cites the Williamston Township as the site of the last Civil War Skirmish East of the Mississippi and the other,
a granite marker located in the park is dedicated to the sacred memory of the confederate dead and Gist Rifles Company D Hampton Legion, Gary’s Brigade Infantry South Carolina Volunteers, A.N.V., C.S.A., 1861-1865, which organized in Williamston Spring Park.
McCullough also requested that the gravesite of the town’s founder, West Allen Williams, be removed from the park.
McCullough said town ordinances should be equally enforced and also requested a review board of citizens be set up to review actions of the local police department.
“I ask this in a respectful manner and to make this town better,” she said.

Brain Hunter said, “These are trying times. We are trying to live together as one people.”
Hunter, who protested in support of Black Lives Matters over a three week period, complained that there was no police presence while he was protesting in front of town hall.
For the most part, Hunter was the lone protester. He said that it is time to stop police brutality. “They kill people and get a slap on the wrist and are back on the streets,” Hunter said.
Hunter agreed with McCullough about the markers. “People who were traitors shouldn’t be honored with statues.,” he said. “Don’t put it in front of people.”

He said it was “Not as white or black, but as one people and do this for the rest of the people in the state.”

Bertha Hunter also spoke, restating what her husband Brian said about no police being present while he protested. “The chief or somebody else should have been out there,” she said.

During his report to council, Police Chief Tony Taylor said the department was being assessed by the SCMASC and had received a perfect score of 100 the last time it was done. They are also working toward SC Police Accreditation, he said. The department is also involved in making recommendations for legislation regarding the Criminal Justice Academy. Chief Taylor said the WPD it looking at ways to deal with the issues of the day through cultural diversity training and de-escalation.

Council approved a resolution honoring Willie Junior Blanding for his lifetime of service, dedication and contributions to his family, church, community and his dedication to the Brookdale Park.

Blanding adopted the task of being the overseer of the Brookdale Park and was the key holder of the recreational building, which held many social gatherings, that was located in the park but since has been torn down. Blanding spent countless hours cleaning and making sure the park was clean and taken care of. He was born July 27, 1928 and passed away January 16, 2002. The Blanding family traces back to the 1800’s when the family resided in Garvin Township of Anderson County. Blanding resided at 5 Crescent Drive in Williamston and the family reunion was held at Brookdale park for more than 40 years.
The resolution honors Blanding’s legacy and dedicated the Brookdale Park in his honor and memory.
A grandson was present at the council meeting Monday.

After the meeting, Chief Taylor responded to Brian Hunter’s comments. He said that the one man protest was a peaceful protest and people “have the freedom to assemble in a peaceful manner, without police interference.”
Taylor said he didn’t want the situation to be misconstrued or seen as being confrontational.