Florida Rally Highlights Deep Divisions On Meaning Of Confederate Flag


Florida Rally Highlights Deep Divisions On Meaning Of Confederate Flag

The Confederate flag is increasingly a big deal for many Americans with recent events being organized to keep this symbol of the South continuing to fly high. While some look at the flag as a symbol of honor and respect for an era, others view the flag as a symbol of slavery and feelings they would rather forget.

The latest pro-flag demonstration saw a convoy of vehicles eight miles long winding its way through a central Florida town on Sunday, in response to its removal from public landmarks throughout the South.

According to police, approximately 1,500 vehicles and more than 4,500 people participated in the “Florida Southern Pride Ride.” Hundreds of car horns honked along with the flying of hundreds of rebel flags. Cars from all over the South and as far as California were in the convoy.

"That flag has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people," according to David Stone, organizer of the event. "It doesn't symbolize hate unless you think it's hate - and that's your problem, not mine.”

The event was announced as the South launched an emotional debate over the symbolism of the flag in a Charleston church massacre occurring last month in which nine blacks were killed by a white gunman. The suspect had posted on a website photos of himself posing with the Confederate flag.

Lawmakers in South Carolina have quickly moved to remove the flag from statehouse grounds in Columbia where it has long been viewed as a symbol of slavery.

Similar steps have been taken in Alabama and other municipalities since the massacre in June.

The national outcry to remove this controversial icon from store shelves and public displays is being hit by some determined resistance in portions of the United States.

Those in support of the flag, such as those who participated in Saturday’s event, insist that the flag is a symbol of honor and regional pride, a demonstration of respect for soldiers of the South who died during the American Civil War.

An administrator in Marion County, Florida had ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from the government building, however, last week the order was overruled and the flag is again flying high.

"It's just about heritage. I'm upset they want to remove a piece of history," said Jessica McRee, a participant in Sunday’s ride.

Residents of Hurley, Virginia demonstrate their support for the logo of the local high school, which contains the Confederate flag flying from a saber.

The state flag of Mississippi consolidates the Confederate banner and its design, is divided. Hattiesburg has removed all flags from municipal buildings, but just down the road in Petal, they voted to continue to fly the flag at all city buildings.

A special legislative session will not be called by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to discuss the issue, resisting urges from other leading state officials to do so. In 2001, Mississippians vigorously pushed to keep the current design of the state flag.

“A backlash is beginning," said Ben Jones, of Sons of Confederate Veterans, a representative of the relatives of 30,000 Confederate soldiers. "We are putting flags out. Everyone time one is taken down, we put five or six of them up."

Jones, star of the 1980s hit “The Dukes of Hazard” and former Georgia congressman, said he has been selling out of the General Lee replicas he sells at his in Tennessee and Virginia. The General Lee is an orange stock car with the Confederate flag on the roof.

The Department of Motor Vehicles in North Carolina has sold out of a specialty license plate which features the Confederate flag. More have been ordered, however, in the future, it may be discontinued.

Galina Abdelaziz, 18, stood with others in protest of the parade.

"It's really discouraging to me to see this in my hometown," said Abdelaziz.

Last minute changes to where the parade would end had been made in order to avoid ending in a mainly black area whose residents were opposed to the event.

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