Confederate flag change raises group’s ire
City takes down ropes so flag can’t fly at cemetery

MICHELLE CROUCH
Staff Writer

City officials removed the ropes from a flagpole in Elmwood Cemetery Wednesday to prevent the Sons of Confederate Veterans from putting up a new Confederate battle flag, then asked the organization not to tell the press about it. Some members of the veterans group are furious.

"They’ve already decided they’re going to take the flag down, and they just don’t want a photo op where the media can come out and take pictures," said Terry Crayton, former commander of the unit that owns the flag. "It’s arrogant. It’s obnoxious. And it’s disrespectful."

The flag, which flies over the graves of Confederate soldiers at the city-owned cemetery, has sparked heated debate since a Charlotte City Council member questioned it six months ago. The city’s community relations committee will decide Friday whether to recommend its removal.

The controversy heated up again last weekend when the flag was stolen. "If the decision won’t be made until Friday, why not let us fly the flag Wednesday, Thursday and Friday?" Crayton asked.

Cemetery Supervisor Mike Shroyer said Assistant City Manager Julie Burch told him to remove the ropes.

"There’s no point in putting another flag up there before the decision is made," Shroyer said. "The rope can be put right back up if the decision is made to fly the flag." Burch and City Manager Pam Syfert could not be reached.

Wednesday, several flag and Elmwood supporters gathered at the cemetery in the northwest part of uptown to replace the banner. When they realized the rigging was missing, one supporter, Doug Hanks, shimmied to the top of the 50-foot pole, but was unable to attach the flag.

"This is about right versus wrong," Hanks said. "I think it’s very wrong for the city to come in and mandate that this symbol of pride and heritage should be taken down." Critics counter that the flag is a symbol of hate and flying it in a city cemetery gives the impression the city endorses it.

The city’s decision to remove the ropes further strains the relationship between it and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who have complained for weeks that the committee examining the issue has ignored public input. Of 358 people who responded to the city’s online survey, 312 wanted the flag to remain.

Yet the committee’s draft recommendations call for removing the flag, placing it in a glass-enclosed case and allowing it to fly only on designated days, such as Flag Day. A second suggestion: replacing it with another Confederate flag, such as the N.C. State Flag of 1861.

"It wasn’t just a numbers game for us," explained Willie Ratchford, executive director of the committee. "We tried to come up with recommendations that allow everyone to have some of what they want, and no one to have all of what they want. We recognize we’re not going to please everyone." The committee will send its recommendations to Syfert, who has the final say unless the council decides to take up the issue.

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Please contact members of the city council and ask them to keep the flag flying at Elmwood Cemetery. Let them know that city manager Pam Syfert and assistant city manager Julie Burch have usurped the council’s authority with this unilateral action.

– Mayor Pat McCrory: mayor@ci.charlotte.nc.us, (704) 336-2244

– Councilman Pat Mumford: patmumford@bellsouth.net, (704) 358-1689

– Councilman Don Lochman: djloch@earthlink.net, (704) 846-6976

– Councilman Pat Cannon: trycannon@aol.com, (704) 890-1835

– Councilman John Lassiter: lassiter@bellsouth.net, (704) 542-1426

– Councilman James Mitchell: jamesdistrict2@aol.com, (704) 398-9480

– Councilwoman Nancy Carter: 71170.3036@compuserve.com, (704) 336-3431

– Councilman Malcolm Graham: malcolmdist4@aol.com, (704) 547-1193

– Councilman Warren Turner: district3_turner@yahoo.com, (704) 713-0452

– Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey: pbk2@mindspring.com, (704) 376-5367

– Councilwoman Susan Burgess: sburg346@aol.com, (704) 333-2874

– Councilman John Tabor: john@tabor2000.com, (704) 362-1700