By TALBERT BLACK
‘Just thought I’d let you know, I am pursuing a restraining order and a harassment suit’
As the president of an activist organization in South Carolina, it’s not uncommon for me to receive threats from politicians. Usually they’re indirect threats and insinuations of trouble to come. No big deal.
Recently, however, we were helping a local group in Anderson County defeat an attempt by the county council to implement a 2 percent local option sales tax that was going to pay for unneeded and wanted projects. Several of the people involved in the fight wished to remain anonymous and asked for our help. The desire for anonymity isn’t unusual. Local politicians are notorious for threatening those who dare to organize against them and their pet projects. Their threats are brazen because, well, with little to no media attention on them, they can get away with it.
They’re in a position to follow through on those threats, too. They can influence zoning, permitting, inspections, and a host of other things that can make a local businessman or property owner scared to cross them. Often, just the insinuation that some negative consequences may happen is enough to squelch local opposition.
That’s why I love taking on local fights. The local politicians really have nothing they can hold over my head. I don’t need anything from them. So I’m more than happy to be the face of local opposition; to protect the local citizens from threats and retribution; and provide the tools and resources needed by the locals.
In order to stop the Anderson County 2 percent local option sales tax, one of the things we did was record a phone call that was delivered to the constituents of some of the county council members. In the call, we explained that the council was about to vote on implementing the tax, explained how the tax would hurt local citizens, and gave the name and phone number of their representative on council. We also gave them the opportunity to press “1” to be directly connected to their representative on council if they wished to.
Many people did.
Each evening, for about a week leading up to the vote, we delivered this call to constituents. The constituents who pressed “1” were connected to their representatives on county council.
One councilor, Tom Allen, was offended by the calls. He called me several times and left voice mail messages with what started out as thinly veiled threats of trouble if I didn’t stop the calls to his constituents.
The threats become more direct as he continued to call me. In his final voice mail, he said he was going to sue me for harassment, and get a restraining order put on me. Keep in mind, I never called him or harassed him in any way, and the people who did call him were his constituents wanting to talk about his position on a policy. Yet he wanted to sue me. He claimed I was harassing him. This kind of threat is nothing new to me, but you can see how it could scare away local opposition to his tax.
I’ve included the text of the phone call we were making and the audio from the final voice mail message he sent me. Enjoy.
Talbert Black is president of the South Carolina Campaign for Liberty. We welcome activists to submit their stories of interactions with elected officials in South Carolina.