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Va. City's Ban on Flying Confederate Flag on City Flagpoles Angers Heritage Groups

I'm originally from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., and now live in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. Despite being different states*, and despite the people from each state that say they hate the other, the experience is really not all that different and the demographics are pretty similar.

[* Note: I know that Virginia is technically a "commonwealth" and not a state. Don't even start.]

One of the interesting things about Virginia, however, is that it is sharply divided in pretty much every way between the D.C. suburbs in Northern Virginia and everywhere else. Once you travel 100 miles south of D.C. and hit Richmond, you enter old-school Virginia -- the Virginia that makes you realize that you are in a state that was a full-blown part of the Confederate States of America. Indeed, Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States and the home of Robert E. Lee, "Stonewall" Jackson and many others. Since 1889, Virginia has had its own state holiday called Lee-Jackson Day in honor of those men, which is now observed on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Virginia's rich Confederate heritage still carries with it a number of tricky issues, however, including the appropriate use of the Confederate flag. In short, many Virginians view the Confederate flag as a symbol of slavery and are offended to see it flying anywhere, particularly on public property. Others contend, however, that the flag is an important part of Virginia's heritage, and is a way to honor Confederate veterans.

On Thursday, officials in Lexington, Va., the Virginia city where Lee and Jackson are buried, voted to prohibit the flying of the Confederate flag on city-owned poles. This was prompted by the hundreds of complaints the city received in January 2011 when the it placed Confederate flags on light poles to mark Lee-Jackson Day. The city council voted Thursday to allow only U.S., Virginia and city flags to be flown on its poles. The vote upset heritage groups such as "The Sons of Confederate Veterans," whose members promptly led a rally that reportedly "turned a downtown park into a sea of Confederate flags" (see a photo of the rally here) The group says it will challenge the new city ordinance in court.

The Lexington city manager responds that the ordinance only affects city property and people can still "carry their flags anywhere they want." The Associated Press notes that nearly 20 years ago the city moved to ban the display of the Confederate flag during a parade honoring Jackson, but was not successful in this effort due to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Posted by Bruce Carton on September 2, 2011 at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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