Protesters march against raising of Confederate flag in Palestine

PALESTINE — The dedication of a Confederate Veterans Plaza in Palestine raised controversy Saturday morning, as members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People marched in protest.

The protesters said they were protesting the flying of Confederate flags above the city.

The protest march began at the farmers’ market on West Spring Street, then continued to West Oak Street, Howard Street, Main Street, then back to the farmers’ market.

The protesters’ chants of "We’re not going back!" rang through downtown Palestine, as law enforcement officers kept an eye on the scene.

Back at the farmers’ market, members from the NAACP spoke to protesters, including Palestine branch President Kenneth Davidson.

The raising of Confederate flags in downtown Palestine brings feelings of hatred and oppression against the local black community, because of what the flags have signified in the past, Davidson said.

"The flag means hatred to us. It means oppression and slavery," he said. "We’re not going back to that."

Davidson said that while he has no problem with honoring soldiers who fought for a cause they believed in, the Confederate rebel flag brings back bad history.

"They’re all soldiers (the Confederate soldiers). We recognize them as soldiers; they’re fighting for what they believe in, but the flag does not mean that to (the black community)," he said.

Branden Johnson, president of the Longview branch of the NAACP, agreed, also claiming that raising the Confederate flag is unpatriotic.

"It’s really simple. The Confederate flag was flown by the Confederacy," he said. "To my knowledge, there was a (Civil War), and they lost — the Union won. We are the United States, and we’re all (Americans)."

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, however, contend they only intend to honor their Confederate ancestors.

Kelly Barrow, Lt. Commander-in-Chief of the national confederacy group, detailed why the memorial plaza was important in his keynote speech, echoing the charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans by Lt. Gen. Stephen Dill Lee, who was the commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans in 1906.

" … We will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved …"

Barrow spoke about the need to preserve Confederate history, as well as educating people about the Southern soldiers.

Doug Smith, adjutant and treasurer of the John H. Reagan Camp, said the camp’s intent is to promote history, not be politically divisive.

"We’re neither political, nor divisive," he said. "We seek to unite. We have members of all races."

While he understands the flag has a negative connotation in the black community, Smith said the negative light was brought because of groups misusing the flag.

On The Web: