Confederate flag raising legal issues for Ringgold
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Its removal three years ago could yield a lawsuit
Randall Franks

Ringgold City Council is facing potential legal action based on its 2005 decision to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the Ringgold Depot Civil War Memorial.

The Southern Legal Resource Center notified the city Feb. 11 by letter from SLRC chief trial counsel Kirk D. Lyons that it will face legal action unless it replaces the battle flag within 10 days.

According to Roger McCredie, Southern Legal Resource Center executive director, the letter puts the city on notice that its clients, the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and its local Joseph McConnell Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1859 in Ringgold, will seek legal redress if the flag is not replaced.

The ultimatum was delivered after the city council failed to respond to a detailed three-page January 15 letter from SLRC, he said.

“That letter set forth reasons why the Battle Flag was the appropriate flag to be flown at the Depot site and asked the council to restore it to the flagpole from which it was removed in March of 2005,” he said.

Beginning in early February 2005 several Ringgold residents led by the African American community urged city council members to remove the Confederate Battle Flag flying in front of the Ringgold Depot, stating that it has become a sign of hate.

Ringgold City Council members voted 3-2, March 28, 2005 to remove the battle flag from the Depot’s Civil War monument honoring soldiers who fought in or were from Catoosa County.

As part of that vote, in place of the Battle Flag, the city raised the Hardee/Cleburne flag — the regimental flag of General Patrick Cleburne, who defended Ringgold Gap against Northern forces in 1863.

But Ringgold City Council voted 3-2 April 11 to re-hoist the Battle Flag for the rest of Confederate History Month in April at the request of Roy Neal, commander of the Joseph McConnell Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1859. The city has not flown the flag since that time.

In its January letter the SLRC cited primary source material proving that other types of Confederate flags other than the Hardee/Cleburne flag were present at the Battle of Ringgold Gap action.

Soldiers in that battle might not have used the Cleburne flag, he said by telephone on Feb. 13.

McCredie’s Jan. 15 letter also said that the battle argument was moot because the Depot monument was erected to honor Confederates who departed from Ringgold to serve throughout the Confederacy, and the battle flag, as a soldiers’ and later a veterans’ flag, was therefore the appropriate flag to display.

The SLRC also indicated that the city may have acted in violation of Georgia law by violating the integrity of the monument.

Everything at that Depot, the cannon, the stones engraved, the flag poles constitute a monument, he said.

In preparation for contacting the city council, the SLRC began legal and historical research last summer, according to McCredie.

Ringgold City Manager Dan Wright was asked if the city had a response about the letters and possible lawsuit.

“No comment at this time,” he said.

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