NORTH CAROLINA: City Pulls Down Signs With Confederate Battle Flag
The signs bearing the Confederate flag represented the High Point Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called Lt. F.C. Frazier Camp #668. In addition to the flag, the SCV emblem bears the words, “Sons of Confederate Veterans, 1896,” and the sign states: “Meets 2nd Monday, Elks Lodge.”
The city did not take down the signs of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in isolation; it also removed all other signs in the same sign clusters, including those of the Rotary, Kiwanis and, Elks and Civitan clubs and a sign for the D.A.R.E program to keep children drug-free.
High Point City Manager Greg Demko said he made an administrative decision to remove the signs. He said the city planned to remove all the signs anyway, but that the Charleston shooting and the debate over the Confederate flag that followed it accelerated that plan.
“With South Carolina looking to take it down off their capitol, we talked about it,” Demko said. “I was looking to get rid of the signs, and I said, ‘This is a good time to do it.’ ”
Demko said that, to his knowledge, there had been only one complaint about the Confederate flag signs. “There was one complaint that came into the city,” he said.
Demko said the plan to remove the signs was originally created to make city rights of way neater, and because the clubs, which used the signs as advertisement for decades, now have websites. But he said the debate over use of the Confederate flag by government entities was a factor.
“It’s part of that issue,” he said. “I thought it would be best if we took them all down, and it fit into the plan I had.”
Signs were taken down on Eastchester Drive near Oak Hollow Lake and at N. Main Street and Old Plank Road. Demko said there may have been others, and that he ordered city crews to take down the signs in all locations.
High Point Mayor Bill Bencini said the issue wasn’t brought to the High Point City Council. The Charleston killings have prompted efforts to remove various Confederate flags from state capitol grounds in South Carolina and other states that until recently fought to keep them there.
“It certainly was a tragedy that happened in Charleston,” Bencini said. “I think it has heightened everybody’s sensitivity. The Confederate flag is an historical fact. People interpret it different ways, so you’re going to get many people upset by the removal of the Confederate flag and by having it up.”
The Sons of Confederate Veterans, founded in 1896, as indicated on the signs, is a fraternal organization of men who have at least one ancestor who served in the Confederate Army or Navy.
According to the charge to members on the North Carolina division of the organization’s website, the organization’s purpose is, among other things “the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, [and] the emulation of his virtues.”
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a nonprofit group whose constitution prohibits political activity, and is not listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which maintains the largest database of such groups.
The commander of the High Point branch, Ronald Perdue, could not be reached for comment. However, Charles Kelly Barrow, head of the national organization, on Friday published what he titled a “Confederate Call to Prayer.” In it, he condemned the Charleston shootings and the use of the Confederate flag by racist or hate groups.
Barrow wrote, “We within the Sons of Confederate Veterans know why we fly our flags and tend to our ancestors graves — to honour, preserve and respect our American Veterans who served the Confederate States of America.”
Former High Point Mayor Bernita Sims, High Point’s first black mayor, said she was happy that the flag signs had been taken down, but that the Confederate flag issue is complicated.
Sims said she considers it fine for organizations to celebrate their heritage, and that the existence of the Sons of Confederate Veterans didn’t bother her. She said she would have been more comfortable had the signs taken down belonged to a group that espoused a racist ideology, rather than the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
“Obviously, there’s a difference of opinion of what the war between the states was about,” Sims said, “I don’t have a problem with taking the flag down. But what if the Confederates had won? Would we be telling the Sons of Union veterans to take a sign down? I don’t know. It’s a big conversation, and it doesn’t fit very well into a brief news piece.”
City Council member Jim Davis said he believes the issue should have been brought to the City Council for a decision.
“A lot of people associate that flag with racism, but a lot of people have family members that served in the Civil War and say that it has nothing to do with racism,” Davis said. “But it really hasn’t been a big issue in that area.”
The Confederate battle flag was drawn into the public debate over the Charleston killings because Dylann Roof, who police have charged in the killings, was shown in a New York Times photo sitting on a car with a “Confederate States of America” license plate which included the flag.
“The sad thing is we had some kind of crazed, mentally ill guy who murdered people in Charleston,” Davis said. “Somehow, the focus has been taken off mental illness and the gun and put on the flag.”
But Council Member Jeff Golden said he would have supported taking down the signs with the Confederate flag had the issue come before the City Council.
“I know that flag and that emblem mean different things to different people,” Golden said. “But in the African-American community, that symbol means fear and things like that. The black community has never embraced that symbol. If we’re going to be an international city, I think that’s a good move, if only to ease the tensions between the races.”
A representative with the Elks Lodge High Point, named in the signs, said the Sons of Confederate Veterans rents space in the Elks Lodge for meetings. But she emphasized that the Elks Club doesn’t endorse the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Alabama: Supporters Rally to Flag’s Cause
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With only three days to organize and prepare supporters of Alabama’s Confederate heritage were able to produce an estimated crowd of over 700 that descended on the Capital grounds June 27 to demand that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) restore the Confederate flags to the Confederate Memorial which is adjacent to Alabama’s historic Capital building.
Gov. Bentley ordered that the flags be removed on Wednesday on June 24.
The Alabama Division Adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Mike Williams told the Alabama Political Reporter that he would like to meet with Gov. Bentley to resolve this situation face to face.
Williams said that if is this is not resolved by the start of the upcoming special session, they would hold a much bigger protest than this one to pressure legislators into supporting legislation requiring that the flags be restored. They would protest again in the regular session if necessary. Williams said that he is working on the legislation that will be introduced in February when the next regular legislative session begins.
Williams said that he plans on talking to state legislators one on one about building support for getting the flags restored.
The protest on Saturday was sponsored by Mike Williams and Karl Andreas “Andy” Bodenheimer.
Bodenheimer said, “We come here today to honor our esteemed ancestors.” Bodenheimer went on to denounce Lincoln and defend the motives of his Confederate ancestors whom he said were seeking independence, “From an overbearing and oppressive government: the same government we are bound to today. The State of Alabama’s motto is, ‘We dare defend our rights.’ We will never surrender our ancestor’s flags. I refuse to be a third class citizen because of political correctness. Mr, Bentley you wanted a fight on your hands, you got one now, buddy. God bless Dixie and God save the South.”
Bodenheimer said afterwards on Facebook, “Thank you….to each and every one of you who attended…I never thought it would be as large as it was, but this is what we needed and we need to continue to stand together and Fight Fight Fight! See you at the next one! Deo Vindice!”
Protestors, a few of them in Confederate uniforms condemned Gov. Bentley calling him “Benedict Arnold Bentley” and “scalawag Bentley.” One said that Bentley was a Southerner until Wednesday, when he took our flags down.
No Confederate flag has flown over the State Capital since Alabama Governor Jim Folsom Jr. (D) took the flag down shortly after assuming office in 1993. Gov. Guy Hunt (R) had to step down after being convicted on ethics charges. The flags were around the Confederate memorial which was built with money raised by many of the same heritage groups protesting on Saturday. It also flew over the original White House of the Confederacy a modest building which is now across the street from the Alabama State Capital.
Williams said that the Confederate Memorial is a museum for the Southern soldier.
The population of Alabama in 1860 was only 964,201, but 435,080 of those were slaves. It is estimated that over 122,000 Alabamians served in the Confederate armed forces and of those as high as 35,000 were killed. Another 30,000 suffered disabilities from their service. 10,000 Alabama slaves escaped and joined the Union armed forces while 2,700 White Alabamians fought for Union forces. The war was devastating to Alabama’s economy for decades. The number of horses (then the primary means of travel and essential to farm life) plummeted from 127,000 in 1860 to just 80,000 in 1870. The number of mules decreased from 111,000 to just 76,000 in 1870.
AL Conservative Group organizer Deanna Frankowski said, “I am a damned Yankee so I am a little nervous. I am the second generation born in America. I can’t relate. I don’t have any Confederate relatives. At some point in your life someone or something is going to offend you. You can choose to move on or you choose to be a victim.”
Frankowski said that Southerners, “Have the right to acknowledge their lives and history by the flying of the flag. Who determines. What is racist? If it is a flag today what will it be tomorrow? At what point do we say enough is enough?” What happened in South Carolina is tragic, but you can’t stop a crazy individual from usurping a flag and declaring that it is evil. This is about more than a flag this is about our country.”
Most of the speakers were with Southern heritage groups, but William Flowers with the Georgia chapter of the League of the South also spoke. He said, “We are a modern day political movement. We are reaching out for the hearts of Southerners for the cause of secession. The Republican and Democrat Parties don’t represents your interest. They will not stand up and fight for you. We view the South as our country. When we look at the American Flag we feel betrayed. That time has passed.”
Williams said that politically correct elites want to “Eradicate your heritage and will ultimately come to destroy you. Be a stand up Southerner who will make a difference.”
Lloyd Caperton with Capterton’s Old South Store in Weogufka said that his company has probably sold a 100 Confederate flags in the last two days.
Dozens of state troopers and law enforcement personnel were deployed.
There were nine persons at a counter protest in Montgomery on Saturday.
There was a second protest in support of the Confederate flag around the giant flag off of I-65 in northern Autauga County. The Alabama Political Reporter observed over 150 motorcyclists at that event.
APR is also aware of smaller pro-Confederate flag protests in Moody and Ashville over the weekend.
Sunday, Phillip Gladden’s online petition at change.org had 20,642 signatures urging Gov. Bentley to “Reinstate all Confederate flags to the State buildings of Alabama.”
LOUISIANA: NAACP Condemns Sons of Confederate Veterans License Plate
The Louisiana chapter of the NAACP has written a letter to Governor Bobby Jindal asking that the “Sons of the Confederate Veterans” license plate be removed as an option here.
The Office of Motor Vehicles says there are currently 160 of those plates, which feature a Confederate battle emblem, on the road.
“Obviously there is a moral revolution taking place in this country to do the right thing,” says LA-NAACP President Ernest Johnson. “And to discontinue having state officially sponsored Rebel Flags in any form.”
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says he sponsored the legislation creating the plate in 1999 at the request of a State Capitol employee. He says he has no comment on whether the state should stop selling it because he is no longer a policy maker.
Johnson says there have been many major retail outlets who have stopped selling Confederate flags.
“We call upon Governor Jindal to do the same, and also those who hear this because some people don’t even know such a plate exists,” said Johnson.
Johnson says a Rebel Flag is a symbol best regulated to individual use and should not be sponsored by our state in any way.
Jindal issued a statement saying, “Certainly it’s possible that the Legislature will look at this issue next time they are in session. But the bottom line is that states need to decide these issues.”
FLORIDA: Confederate Defenders Gather Near Huge Flag
TAMPA, Fla. — While many people held barbecues and watched fireworks Saturday evening to celebrate the Fourth of July, about 200 descendants and supporters of Confederate soldiers gathered to honor their heritage in a different way.
They held a rally beneath the huge Confederate battle flag on U.S. 92, just off Interstate 75, to protest recent criticism of the symbol and calls to remove it from government buildings.
The event was held at Confederate Memorial Park and was called together in just a few days, organizers said.
“This is a spontaneous expression of public affection for the flag,” said David McCallister, commander of the Judah P. Benjamin Camp, the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The flag, which has drawn intense scrutiny since it was erected near the interchange of interstates 75 and 4 in 2008, has been thrust into the spotlight again following the massacre of nine black people in a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month. Police said a 21-year-old man with a white supremacist background confessed to the killings.
The shooting led to a national decrying of the Confederate flag, which many have argued is a symbol of racism and treason.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has led marches to have the flag removed from the state house in South Carolina.
The Hillsborough County Commission soon will discuss whether to remove a small battle flag from the lobby of the Frederick B. Karl County Center downtown. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn joined others in calling for removal of the large Confederate flag off U.S. 92.
But the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, the group that maintains the Tampa park and is dedicated to preserving the history of the Confederacy, does not see the “Stars and Bars” as racist or offensive, but as a symbol of Southern heritage.
The man who committed the Charleston shooting was a “hate monger,” said Phil Walters, first lieutenant commander and a co-founder of the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “But we are going to defend our heritage and we’re not going to give it up.”
The shooter was a racist and a criminal, but that doesn’t mean everyone who wants to preserve the Confederate symbol feels the same way, Walters said.
“I think Martin Luther King fought against that mindset,” he said. “Don’t stereotype.”
The crowd of people who attended the rally packed into the small park east of Tampa, which besides a towering flag pole also has monuments to local men and women who served for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
They came from all across Central Florida — many waving their own Confederate flags — for the event. After the crowd said the Pledge of Allegiance, they saluted the Confederate flag and sang “Dixie,” the anthem of the Confederacy.
Some people in the crowd wore T-shirts identifying themselves as members of the “Dukes of Hillsborough,” a group that formed recently to protect the flag in Hillsborough County.
The name came about after the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” which featured a car dubbed the General Lee that was adorned with a painted Confederate flag, was removed from TV Land lineups.
Evelyn Arthur of Arcadia came with other members of the Order of the Confederate Rose, an organization of women dedicated to preserving Confederate heritage, to support the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and defend the flag.
Her group also has been working to clean grave sites of Confederate veterans in her hometown.
“It’s not what many people portray is to be,” she said of the flag. “It’s a heritage thing, and we’re all proud of our heritage.”