Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Confederate flag controversy still unsettled in Haywood
Written by Becky Johnson
Haywood County temporarily backed off its hard-line stance against tiny Confederate flags being stuck in the ground around the base of a memorial for Confederate soldiers on the lawn of the historic courthouse in Waynesville, but has once again started removing the flags.
After getting a complaint about the divisive symbol being placed on the courthouse lawn by Confederate supporters, the county decided to remove the tiny flags. That didn’t last long, however.
The county immediately got pushback from Confederate supporters, who claim the flag is a symbol of their heritage and honors their ancestors who fought for the South. Several of them staged a protest outside the courthouse last week and have upped their game — placing a full-size Confederate flag pole on the lawn instead of the six-inch-high toothpick variety they had been sticking in the ground before.
County leaders then decided to let the flags stay, given the absence of a formal policy on what can and cannot be placed on the courthouse lawn by outside groups.
After a week of allowing the flags until a policy could be researched and adopted, the county changed its position and decided that it would instead remove the flags in the absence of a policy. This also means that the tiny American flags stuck in the ground around the other war memorials on the courthouse lawn have to go as well.
In the meantime, those who are offended by the Confederate flag as a symbol often associated with racism and slavery have expressed their views to the county.
“Nearly every symbol, flag and banner can be placed in a historical context in an attempt to justify the placement of same on public, government property. There is no doubt that a great number of our citizens find that the flying of this particular symbol on government property is offensive,” reads a letter delivered to Haywood County commissioners last Friday and signed by 20 local residents. “This is a symbol that divides our citizens and continues to harm our ability to heal past wrongs.”
Commissioners also received letters pleading to allow the flag.
“Those that vilify Confederate monuments and symbols are very confused about the history of the War Between the States and have jumped on the bandwagon to spread falsehoods and fear. In no way do these symbols represent hate or violence,” according to a letter from Kip Rollins, a Haywood residents and leader within the Southern Historical and Heritage Preservation Society.