Danville to do more research on Confederate flag issue

Posted: Friday, October 10, 2014
Danville Register & Bee

Danville City Council has asked the city’s attorney to conduct further legal research regarding a request to remove the third national Confederate flag from the front lawn of the Sutherlin Mansion.

The board of directors of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History — which is housed inside the Sutherlin Mansion — voted on Sept. 25 to ask the city to remove the Confederate flag from the museum grounds. The board sent a written request to the city on Sept. 30.

The museum wants to move the flag inside for a planned Confederate flag exhibit as part of the museum’s sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

City Attorney Clarke Whitfield will report his findings at a closed city council meeting that will follow its work session on Oct. 21.

State law allows local governments to hold closed meetings for legal consultation. City council will reconvene in open session and discuss how to proceed.

Following a city council meeting Thursday night, Danville residents, including members of local Confederate heritage organizations, expressed opposition to the flag’s removal.

A handful of other local residents were in favor of taking it down.

“That flag doesn’t represent me,” said Danville resident Matthew Bailey. It represents negativity and people being separated, Bailey said.

“Our city should be in the forefront of reconciliation and peace,” he added. The flag’s removal would allow everyone to “move forward together,” Bailey said.

Steve Adkins, who opposes taking the flag down, said previous city councils have recognized the importance and value of the flag and preserving Danville’s heritage. The flag doesn’t represent all of the city but is “part of our past,” Adkins said.

Danville resident Tony Lundy said the city has been peaceful the last 20 years since the 1994 resolution and agreement with a local heritage group over the flags’ display at the mansion.

“This has been a peaceful city for the last 20 years,” Lundy said. “I don’t want to see that change … We’re not asking for much,” Lundy said.

Following the 1994 resolution passed by city council, the Heritage Preservation Association became responsible for the flag’s maintenance, purchase, removal and replacement. The city owns the monument and the flag pole, along with the Sutherlin Mansion and its grounds.

The flag itself belongs to the HPA.

One lady who spoke at the meeting said the flag should be relegated to the history books so it doesn’t “fly in our faces every day.”

Glenn Scearce, who was against taking down the flag, said African-Americans have a right to be angry but that white Southerners have a history, also. The South “suffered terribly” during the Civil War and the years afterward, he said.

The subject of slavery was happening for 200 years before the flag was sewn together, Scearce said. If the flag is removed from the museum lawn, it will be on display for a short while, put into a closet and then it will disappear, he said.

The Confederate flag is not a symbol of hatred and it was not flying over ships that brought slaves to America, he said.

“My history also has a place in America,” Scearce said.

Ed Clark, second lieutenant commander with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said “Old Glory” flew over the ships that brought slaves to America, not the Confederate flag. The ships’ passengers were already slaves before they came and they were educated, taught to write here, Clark said. The flag should fly at the museum, he said. It represents an independent nation that was illegally invaded by [President Abraham] Lincoln, who didn’t care about slaves, Clark said.

“That flag represents independence, defiance against tyranny,” Clark said.

In the waning days of the Civil War, the Sutherlin Mansion served as the final home of the Confederate government after the fall of Richmond. Danville is considered the “last capitol” because it marked the last time the full Confederate government met in one place before the armies in the field surrendered.

The monument includes a seven-foot granite obelisk and a flagpole flying the third national flag of the Confederacy. According to the resolution, the purpose of the acceptance was to recognize the mansion’s historical status as the “Last Capitol of the Confederacy.”

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