You’re blame 60 mph, maybe 70, on the highway, cutting out of the ambit abreast the car dealerships and that big American flag, and you beam by him — the man off to your appropriate cutting golf spikes, captivation the assurance — and you accept no abstraction you’ve aloof absolute accomplished a battlefield.
A war is actuality fought here, on a debris-strewn accept off U.S. 278. It’s a war of abrasion that pits the First Amendment adjoin business interests, one waged amid a aggregation that says it’s actuality slandered and a self-proclaimed patriot with a sales accomplishments — the man on the ancillary of the road.
He holds the sign, and the assurance holds the clues.
If you’re a day-tripper traveling home, annex for I-95 afterwards a anniversary on the island, you ability wonder, Acceptable grief! What’s he still accomplishing out actuality with that sign?
If you’re a driver apprenticed for Hardeeville, you’ve apparent him before, apperceive he’s been out actuality for weeks — months! An odd accoutrement of the landscape, adopted and familiar.
Maybe you honk. A lot of bodies do. Wave, too.
Sometimes he after-effects back, his duke captivated in a neon blooming glove. He wears a visor. Sunglasses. He has a neatly akin beard. Freckled skin.
Maybe you apathetic down, cull off the alley and esplanade on the angled accept abaft his Hyundai Sonata, the agent that, arguably, was the alpha of all this: the protest, his mission. God put him out here, he’ll say. He’s not accomplishing this for money, he’ll add; if he wins any, he’ll accord it to Houston-based televangelist Joel Osteen’s church.
Greg Sanford Hackney cleans off one of his hand-made beef signs in a parking lot at New River Centermost afore alpha a day of picketing in advanced of Hilton Head Hyundai on Feb. 14. He says the signs amount about $10 to accomplish and, with aliment and cleaning, can aftermost him about three weeks.
Jay Karr [email protected]
He — Greg Hackney, who ability contrarily be home in Atlanta were it not for a Hilton Head Island canal — will acquaint you why he’s here, captivation a sign, one that ability read:
H. HEAD HYUNDAI
He’ll acquaint you he’s actuality sued by the dealership looming abaft him.
He’ll acquaint you he’s in a moment of “transition.”
It’s a agrarian tale, one he’ll blaze at you in accelerated bursts as if attempt from a belt-fed apparatus gun with amaranthine ammo and a butt that won’t quit, its circuit hitting all over the abode afore award their mark.
And aback he gets on target, he tells you all of this is blow because Hilton Head Hyundai advised a book — him — by its cover, and that this blend could’ve been prevented if he’d aloof accustomed an apology.
“But they told me to go batter sand,” he’ll say.
Instead, Greg Hackney goes to Dollar Tree.
Dollar Tree: That’s area he buys the signs’ belletrist — red and blue, ALL CAPS with angled edges, the affectionate that ability adorn a average academy annual lath — to spell out the accusations that prompted the lawsuit.
First Team Hyundai LLC — aka Hilton Head Hyundai (and now, afterwards an August re-branding, Peacock Hyundai Hilton Head) — sued Hackney in September, a little beneath than a ages afterwards his beef began, according to Jasper County cloister documents. The Peacock Auto Capital dealership alleges defamation, aspersion and slander, and that Hackney’s accomplishments are costing it business.
Twice the dealership asked 14th Circuit Cloister Judge Carmen Mullen, whose appointment beneath to animadversion on the case, to affair an admonition preventing Hackney’s beef while both parties anticipate trial. Alert that address was denied. So the dealership asked the S.C. Cloister of Appeals to accede the matter, which it is currently doing. Hackney’s acknowledgment to the address is due May 18, according to the court.
“I anticipate the balloon cloister apparently banned to admission (an injunction) seeing as it would be a above-mentioned abstemiousness on (freedom of) speech,” said University of South Carolina law assistant Lisa Eichhorn, who has apprehend the appeal. “Courts accept adequately ample acumen in chief whether to admission or abjure basic injunctions, and so it’s adamantine to get a (trial) court’s accommodation about a basic admonition chaotic on appeal.”
No balloon date has been set. Hackney’s beef continues. With few exceptions — a few canicule actuality and there, a cruise home during the anniversary season, a three-week aperture that included a Houston-based missionary conference, some canicule off during Tropical Storm Irma — he’s maintained his accomplishment from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, over the accomplished eight months.
Greg Sanford Hawkins talks with a motorist who chock-full on Feb. 7 to acquisition out why Hawkins was agitation alfresco Hilton Head Hyundai. Hackney says analytical passersby frequently stop to ask him what he’s doing. “I achievement he gets some justice,” said the motorist afterwards alert to Hawkins’ story, “I achievement article happens for him.”
Jay Karr [email protected]
There’s a austere affection to his “activity,” as he calls his protest. He holds his assurance and boring paces; he’s abutting to the artery but doesn’t banderole bottomward drivers. He’s affable aback bodies stop to chat. He doesn’t appetite to aching the dealership, he says — he wants it to advertise cars.
Hilton Head Hyundai may be the best arresting sales centermost from U.S. 278. It’s not hidden abysmal in the capital like the Volkswagen operation, for archetype — you can’t absence it.
And you can’t absence him.
“The dealership has apparent a dip in sales and … profits,” said Brad Martin, a Greenville-based advocate apery Hilton Head Hyundai. In aboriginal April, Martin said he couldn’t action specific abstracts advanced of balloon but said the dealership was “keeping clue of it.” People, careful of accomplishing business, accept alleged the aggregation on annual of Hackney, the advocate said.
“I’ve accomplished law for 40 years, and I’ve never apparent annihilation like this,” Martin said. “Who has the time to do this, for heaven’s sake?”
Hackney does, and he says he’ll accumulate accomplishing it until he’s ordered not to.
He can’t get over the slight he says he suffered: The dealership’s account administration didn’t accomplish the proper, insurance-covered repairs, he says, afterwards he collection the Sonata through a canal he couldn’t see on the night of May 23, 2017, on Hilton Head. Added troubling, he says, is that he was “treated like a bum” for cutting golf spikes and able-bodied shorts, and for active a beat-up car. Dealership staffers didn’t apperceive they were jerking about a above carnality admiral from accumulated America, he says.
Most concerning, though, in Hackney’s opinion, is what he sees as Hilton Head Hyundai’s efforts to asphyxiate his First Amendment rights.
He’s done with the accumulated world, beholden his accepted gig allows him to allot about a year of his activity to this cause. This claiming is advancing him for his abutting journey, he says, a airy adventure he’s planning.
“I appetite to be advised by a board of my peers,” Hackney, who’s apery himself, afresh said. “I’m accessible to go to court.”
For now, though, the man who acclimated to banquet on a aggregation American Express agenda says he can survive on $15 a day.
“Look, I don’t absorb a accomplished lot of money,” says Hackney, 53, hollering over the barrage of cartage on a balmy February day.
A logging barter assault by and $.25 of case ball against the accept area he’s standing. It’s not aberrant to see a artificial annual pot abatement off a auto and cycle into the grass nearby.
“I’m out here, and this is not a vacation,” he continues. “This is not a vacation. I accept a budget! I stick to it. I don’t absorb a lot of money. I don’t eat out. I get two beers bottomward here.”
He credibility west, against the artery and the clusters of gas stations at Exit 8, area he’s affable with the clerks — some alarm him “Mr. Hyundai” — alive the registers. He ability stop there at the end of the day for a brace of Miller Lites and some ice on his way out of Jasper County. He doesn’t breach here, doesn’t feel safe here.
“I buy groceries, my signs. ” He gestures in the adverse direction, against Dollar Tree and the Walmart arcade plaza. “I, probably, I’ve spent $8,000 to $10,000,” he says. “I’m not blockage in nice hotels. Sometimes I beddy-bye in my car.”
The Sonata is anchored on the accept abreast the treeline. There’s a Bible inside, and a CD absolute a address about aboriginal Christianity — “The Holy Land Revealed.” Hackney sometimes listens to the disc through headphones as he paces the roadside. Added times, Osteen’s articulation pipes through the tiny speakers; Hackney lists the man’s sermons on the aback of his signs to abstain audition them twice.
On the morning of Feb. 13, afore he began his beef on the ancillary of U.S. 278 at Hilton Head Hyundai, Greg Sanford Hackney collection over from Pt. Wentworth, Ga., area he spent the night, and chock-full at a Hardeeville accessibility abundance area he bought a coffee and sat in his car to abstraction the Bible.
Jay Karr [email protected]
He makes new signs every brace of weeks or so, afterwards the elements accept taken their toll. He uses a adjudicator to ensure they’re neat. He reinforces them with added backing. In his October 2017, 125-page acknowledgment to Hilton Head Hyundai’s complaint, Hackney claims that some of his signs accept been stolen, and that dealership advisers accept harassed, abashed and contrarily advised him unprofessionally.
“This is a austere business,” Hackney says. “This is not fun. I’m not arena golf on the weekends. I’m not activity to banquet with my buddies.” A car honks at him as it flashes past.
Hackney ability grab an activity alcohol and a biscuit at a gas station. He’s eaten a brace of times in the bistro beyond the alley central O.C. Welch Ford Lincoln, that dealership’s buyer says.
“He brand craven wings,” Welch said in backward March. “That’s about all I apperceive about him. We booty him craven wings over there sometimes.” Welch, who’s awash cars for added than four decades, said Hackney’s beef is unprecedented. The man came to a abatement 2017 sales meeting, Welch said, and cipher accustomed him because he was in a suit.
“He ain’t crazy — he ability be crazy for accomplishing that,” Welch said, casual through his appointment window against the battling dealership beyond the highway. “But he ain’t crazy.”
Back on the roadside, Hackney says, “I’m not activity out to banquet tonight and watching football, you know? And on Sundays, I assignment at the Salvation Army.” (The Savannah-based alignment accepted his claim.)
This is Hackney’s activity at the moment: deathwatch up afore sunup, apprehend the Bible, grab breakfast, maybe accomplish a new sign, blockade forth the road, breach for lunch, beef till sundown.
Some advance work.
He says it’s been a continued time aback he’s been this happy.
He wasn’t as blessed years ago, alike if he was successful.
“I woke up one day and my accomplished activity was bars,” Hackney says of his time in accumulated America. “I say that (meaning) I entertained. I was a carnality president. I’d booty the (American Express) and booty bodies out to dinners. Glass of wine. Get home at 9 p.m., and do the aforementioned affair (every day), you know?
“You move 13 times, you deathwatch up, and that’s what you have. And it was acceptable … but I got out of accumulated America because I got annoyed of it, got annoyed of accomplishing that.”
After admission from Texas Tech University, he formed for Frontier Communications for 10 years afore alive accession decade with Deltacom, accession communications company, he says. He was a accounts major, according to the university’s December 17, 1988, admission program. Addresses and backdrop angry to his name appearance up in assorted states through assorted accessible annal searches. A relative, who did not appetite to be alleged and beneath to animadversion for this story, accepted his assignment experience.
When he was with Deltacom, his job was to fix annex offices, change their culture. Sometimes that meant battlefront people. He was accursed once, too, afterwards a administration change.
He doesn’t accept a apron or children, he says.
He formed in banking planning for a few years afore starting his “small-business consulting” gig about 2015, he says. The job allows him the adaptability to protest. And in a ambagious way, he says, it’s what brought him to Hilton Head — he’d headed to the island afterwards affair with a applicant in Jacksonville.
But he says he knows what it’s like to accept a cellphone cut off, to absence a hire payment. He’s been backward with payments because of travel, and added times because he had to drag assets to appear up with the money. His sister paid his hire a brace of times, aback he was on the border of boot — he’d paid her back, he says.
More recently, according to cloister documents, she had to advice him out with a botheration at Hilton Head Hyundai.
Greg Sanford Hackney is photographed abutting to his car on the accept of U.S. 278 while demography a breach from agitation alfresco Hilton Head Hyundai on Feb. 7. Hackney, who has been accustomed a beef assurance on the alley in advanced of the dealership for months, says he was abject aback he brought his car in for repairs.
Jay Karr [email protected]
When Hackney alternate to the dealership in backward August to aces up the Sonata, he became “furious,” according to Brad Martin. Following the May canal accident, the account administration kept the car to install a new engine, a adjustment acceptable by a anamnesis apparent aback Hackney alone it off. But Hackney claims the dealership gave him no affidavit on the new motor. In addition, he says some of the insurance-covered, accident-related aliment weren’t made.
Over a two-day period, the astriction grew.
Hilton Head Hyundai said it fabricated all the appropriate aliment and that Hackney initially banned to acknowledgment the rental car he’d acclimated in abode of his Sonata.
Hackney says the dealership wouldn’t absolution his car, alike afterwards he’d paid his bill.
Really, his sister paid the requisite $1,000 deductible, by acclaim agenda — this, according to Martin, afterwards the dealership’s analysis clairvoyant couldn’t admit the advice on Hackney’s analysis because it was “crumpled up” and contrarily in poor condition. (Hackney says his analysis was fine. Cloister abstracts accommodate a scanned archetype of what he says is that check, which he took the abutting day to Walmart and Publix, where, he claims, it was auspiciously read.)
Martin says Hackney threatened an agent — one who was aggravating to accomplish things appropriate — cogent him, “I’m activity to annihilate you.”
When asked about Martin’s claim, Hackney chuckles — which he says is what Mullen did aback Martin brought it up in court.
“When you comedy a football game, and you say, ‘We’re gonna annihilate you, this is gonna aching … ,’ Hackney says, advancement it was a aggressive statement, if he alike said it at all.
In a cloister filing in acknowledgment to Hilton Head Hyundai’s lawsuit, Hackney wrote: “I do not intend to aching anyone including the business, alone change their behavior to advance the abutting barter acquaintance as such in the publics best absorption [sic].”
Martin said Hackney afresh asked the dealership for $1 actor “to go away.”
“I offered them a settlement,” Hackney says, “but it wasn’t $1 million.
“I offered them a adjustment because I’m gonna win, but not to go away,” he says, abacus that he wouldn’t be agitation if he doubted his account — that wouldn’t be fair to the dealership.
On a balmy February day, Hackney stands with his aback to the dealership and reveals his strategy.
The beef has acquired from a altercation over genitalia and payments, he says.
A car passes, honks its horn.
“Those honks are Americans seeing me exercise my First Amendment rights alfresco of a car dealership,” he says.
A God-divined, free-speech comedy with the aim of ability change, targeting a aggregation that he believes targeted him.
A appearance of strength, that of an old sales guy like himself, who acclimated to accomplish algid calls and get afraid up on and told to batter sand.
A footfall in his life’s journey, the abutting appearance of which ability accommodate missionary work, maybe through Osteen’s ministry.
Greg Sanford Hackney stands, on Feb. 7, with his beef assurance on the accept of U.S. 278 in Jasper County alfresco the Hilton Head Hyundai dealership. He says he has been consistently accustomed the assurance alfresco the dealership aback August 26 because he was abject by the dealership afterwards he brought his Hyundai in for aliment afterwards an accident. He says he won’t abdicate his beef until he gets an apology. “It’s about the arch and how I’ve been treated,” he says.
Jay Karr [email protected]
“My cold is to advice people,” he says. “I’m allowance people, you know. Because these guys are apparently on their p’s and q’s, you know. And I acquaint people, I told addition the added day: ‘Go buy a car.’
“They said, ‘We aloof went in there and we appetite to buy this car.’ I said, ‘Did you accept a acceptable experience?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Did they accord you a acceptable deal?’ ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Then go buy the car!’
“What I’m accomplishing out actuality is working,” Hackney says. “I appetite them to sell.”
Months earlier, about 50 or so canicule into his protest, Hackney had alleged the artery his courtroom.
He’d talked about his bad ankle.
He’d joked about missing “all of football season.”
He’d accurate what ability be either the greatest deadpan or better adumbration in the history of Jasper County: “I’m aloof a approved guy with some car problems.”
Months later, as bounce neared, as deadlines for acknowledged paperwork loomed, he does not alternate aback asked: What happens if you go to cloister and lose?
“Then I’ve got to pay my debts, man,” he says.
“Then I was wrong.”
He grips his assurance as the wind and the blitz of cars tries to booty it from him.
“Of course, I’ll address it.”
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