County officials wade into Confederate flag battle

Miami-Dade County officials are now involved in resolving the fight among several groups over the Confederate battle flag.
BY TANIA VALDEMORO
tvaldemoro@MiamiHerald.com

The Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board has waded into the ongoing dispute over the one-time appearance of the Confederate battle flag at last year’s Veterans’ Day parade in downtown Homestead.

In a press release issued by county officials Wednesday, the board said it would join the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service in convening mediation sessions “to try and resolve some of the issues that have developed between area residents and the Homestead city government.”

”This has been getting out of hand,” Harold Vieux, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board, said of the dispute that erupted after the Nov. 11 parade, where the Sons of Confederate Veterans marched with the rebel flag in the popular annual parade sponsored by the Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce. “We are there to keep the peace.”

The board’s primary mission is to “intervene and contain, as quickly as possible, community tensions.”

In the press release, the board ‘encouraged participants and members of the public to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and to cooperate with the mediation of issues that have arisen over the inclusion of the Confederate flag in the Veterans’ Day parade.”

Vieux said he expected some resolution to the thorny issue of displaying the Confederate battle flag — which for some evokes Southern pride but for others symbolizes racism and hate.

Among those participating in the mediation: People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality, the Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce’s military affairs committee which organizes the parade; and the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP, which had threatened to boycott chamber businesses and oust Homestead city council members during November’s election in response to the council’s April 20 vote to dissolve the Homestead/Florida City Human Relations Board.

The former board had recommended banning the flag during parades to the city council.

Last week, spokeswoman Lillian Delgado said Homestead would be involved although the city does not plan or direct the parade.

”The Department of Justice has invited the city to participate in the mediation and [City Manager Mike Shehadeh] will attend the sessions on behalf of the city,” she said.

Vieux said the board is still working out a date, but the first mediation session would start before the end of July.

Officials from the chamber’s military affairs committee, have said they would need to make a decision on whether to hold this year’s event by September. In May, the chamber’s board of directors had unanimously recommended to discontinue the 47-year-old tradition because of the controversy.

Copyright 2009 Miami Herald Media Co.

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