Protesters Defend Confederate Flag in Virginia, "Part of Our Heritage"

Michael Allen
Sep 2, 2011

The Sons of Confederate Veterans protested yesterday against plans to limit Confederate flags on downtown poles in Lexington, Virginia, where Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson are buried.

In January, the city received hundreds of complaints when Confederate flags were planted on light poles to mark Lee-Jackson Day, a state holiday. That’s when the city decided to have rules governing the flying of flags on light poles, said city leader T. Jon Ellestad.

Many of the complaints are apparently coming from college students in the town of 7,000. However, confederate flag defenders have argued that the flag, which was carried by the pro-slavery south during the Civil War, is “part of their heritage.”

Philip Way, who attended the Sons of Confederate Veterans rally with 100 others, said: “I am a firm believer in the freedom to express our individual rights, which include flying the flag that we decide to fly. That’s freedom to me.”

Mimi Knight, who was not part of the protest, said: “These are the things that make Lexington what it is. The Confederate flag is part of our heritage.”

This is not the first time Lexington has clashed with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The city attempted nearly 20 years ago to ban the display of the Confederate flag during a parade honoring Jackson.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully defended the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ right  to carry the flag, is watching this current controversy. “The city council could live to regret this ordinance, as it imposes unusually restrictive limits on the use of the light poles,’ said Kent Willis, the ACLU’s executive director in Virginia.

The 13 stars on the Confederate flag represent the states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.