By MIKE SALINERO | The Tampa Tribune
September 3, 2008
TAMPA – The gigantic Confederate flag flying at an Interstate 75 approach to Tampa will stay up indefinitely, the property owner says.
The 30-by-50-foot flag has been up and down since initially being raised June 3 next to the I-75 bridge over U.S. 92. Most recently, the Sons of Confederate Veterans raised the flag Aug. 23 to honor the memory of Bart Siegel, a member who died Aug. 7.
Marion Lambert, owner of the property and a spokesman for the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, says he expects the flag to continue flying.
"My hunch, my gut feeling is it’s probably going to stay up because it’s just a beautiful site," Lambert said.
The flag is part of a memorial park dedicated to Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The park is to be dedicated April 26, Confederate Memorial Day. David McCallister, a member of the local group, said the original plan had been to start flying the flag permanently at the dedication.
"Once the basic construction is through and we have a certificate of completion, we will definitely start the permanent flying," McCallister said.
Michelle Williams, a black community activist, said she will be organizing opposition to the flag in the coming two weeks.
"I want to get the community so riled up," Williams said. "I want to get them so upset about the flag because that flag is going to come down."
Hillsborough County Commissioner members tried to persuade Lambert and other members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to take the flag down in the name of racial harmony.
Known as the "Stars and Bars," the Confederate battle flag is seen by many blacks as a symbol of slavery and racism.
Lambert says the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage and that Confederate veterans should be honored just as other Americans who fought and died in wars.
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