Stars and bars were flapping in the breeze Saturday as around 50 drivers proudly displayed a variety of flags in a regional Ride for Pride that passed through Cheraw and Bennettsville.
Organizers and drivers met across U.S. 1 in the A-section parking lot of the Rockingham Speedway. The route took riders through Rockingham and Anson County in North Carolina before crossing into the Palmetto State.
As participants pulled in, they were handed packets — containing “I Support Confederate Heritage” stickers — by members of the Moore County Scotch Riflemen of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Also included was information about the organization.
“This will be the first one we’ve been in,” said SCV member Gerald Monroe. “Hope to do more.”
Riders had several variations of the Confederate flag, including the first, second and third national banners and the Bonnie Blue flag. Also flying were the U.S., Gadsden (“Don’t Tread on Me”), POW-MIA and Christian flags, in addition to Confederate variations of the North and South Carolina state flags.
“It’s about heritage, it’s not about hate,” said Joshua Peed of Hamlet. “We do this to honor our ancestors that fought and died, just like any other American would honor their dead.”
Marcus Karachun made the trip from Ayden, which is just outside Greenville in Pitt County.
“On the way up here, we had some people roll the windows down, thumbs up,” he said. “Some people looked confused.”
Karachun said that some people’s views have been changed since the rides began, following the decision to remove the flag from the South Carolina statehouse two months ago.
Josh Flores, from Ellerbe, said this was his 14th ride.
“I got some thumbs up,” he said, “but you can’t change the way they look at the flag.”
On the back of Flores’ truck were four flags: U.S., Gadsden, a N.C./Confederate combination and a Confederate flag reading “Rebel Born, Rebel Bred.” The latter flag was a replacement after someone ripped his flag from its pole.
“Just have respect for the flag…(and) the people that’s flyin’ it,” he said.
Josh Williams, who drove up from Cheraw, said shots were fired at a previous ride he was in that was based out of Bennettsville.
Even a leg infection couldn’t keep Edward Grey Jr., of Biscoe, from making out to the ride.
“Yesterday at the hospital I was told I needed to be admitted immediately because of a serious infection attacking my legs,” he wrote on the event’s Facebook page. “I am forgoing admission so I can be in this ride, which may be my last. This is how strongly I believe in what we are doing. After the ride is over, I will go to the hospital and it may not go well, but I will have the satisfaction knowing I stood up for Dixie until the last minute.”
Prior to the start, riders gathered around Grey’s vehicle for a short prayer.
Karachun said he is also planning to go to the Rally Around the Mountain ride, scheduled for Sept. 19 at Sugar Loaf Mountain in South Carolina’s Sand Hills State Forest. There is also a Heritage Ride scheduled for that day in Robbins.
“It’s not the North against the South, it’s us against the tyrants,” he said. “We just want to keep our rights, keep our freedom and put God back in this country.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.