Authorities in South Carolina have petitioned to boot a couple from their home in the small town of Conway after the pair allegedly burned a cross near their Black neighbors’ home and yelled “racial slurs,” according to court documents.
Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson is asking a court to declare the home a “public nuisance” and remove the residents for at least a year. The couple living there, Alexis Hartnett and Worden Butler, “have harassed, assaulted, and threatened their neighbors and people in the public areas” surrounding the home for years, Richardson wrote in his petition.
One alleged incident detailed in the filing occurred last Thanksgiving, when Hartnett is said to have “threatened and yelled racial slurs at her immediate neighbors who are African American.” Butler allegedly posted a photo of the neighbors’ house on Facebook, writing: “With a cross in the lawn… Going to give my racist neighbors who don’t live here and you’ve been harassing me for three years a good scare for their health.”
The next day, court documents say, Butler “placed a burning cross a few feet from his African American neighbor’s fence” while “neighbors were enjoying the holiday weekend with their family.”
“The above-mentioned acts and conduct which occur on the premises are offensive to public decency, morals, peace, and health, and constitute a public nuisance,” Richardson wrote.
If the couple is not removed from the house, he says, Butler and Hartnett will continue to be “a public nuisance to the harm and detriment of the public.”
Monica and Shawn Williams, the neighbors who were targeted in the cross-burning incident last November, are Army vets who had moved to the area only recently.
“We were speechless because we’ve never experienced something like that,” Monica Williams told local outlet WMBF after Hartnett and Butler were arrested for the cross burning. They were charged with misdemeanor harassment but the Williams family said they were forced to live in terror after the pair was released.
“So now, what are we to do? Live next to a cross-burning racist who’s threatened to cause us bodily harm,” she said.
South Carolina is one of only two states without a hate crime law, forcing local jurisdictions to pass their own ordinances or get creative in handling such harassment. Richardson, the solicitor, is relying on a state law in this case that is usually used to shut down businesses known for drug activity or prostitution.
It was not immediately clear if Hartnett and Butler have hired lawyers.