Hundreds demand that city officials reinstate Confederate standard
ALICE GREGORY HARTNETT
The battle over Southern heritage was waged Saturday as hundreds filled Elmwood Cemetery for a rally to resurrect the Confederate battle flag.
The flag hasn’t flown at the cemetery since the city of Charlotte removed it two weeks ago, but protesters waved dozens among the monuments and spoke from a podium draped in the flag..
Organizers said the rally was the first step toward gaining the attention of city leaders, and political hopefuls used it as a platform to campaign for office.
Democratic mayoral candidate Craig Madans and Doug Hanks, who’s running for Patrick Cannon’s at-large seat on the Charlotte City Council, spoke out against City Manager Pam Syfert’s decision to remove the flag.
The issue has been debated for more than eight months, and public comments have largely been in favor of leaving the flag in place. And a committee studying the issue recommended several options. But Syfert disagreed and ordered the pole be removed.
The flag flew over a fenced-in section of the cemetery where the remains of Confederate soldiers lie.
City Council member Warren Turner, a Democrat, has said he would have supported a shorter flagpole instead of removal. But he said the flag has a history that still offends people.
Several protesters and members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said they were angry with Syfert’s decision and said that Syfert vandalized the cemetery by removing the flagpole, which some said was private property erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
"We should not be sad; we should be outraged," said Hanks. "This is no longer about North versus South but about democracy versus tyranny. This is about right versus wrong, about speaking out to our public officials, who keep ignoring us time after time."
Others, some dressed in Civil War-era uniforms, said the issue was more about preserving history than igniting a racial controversy.
"Other cities cherish their history. Charlotte tries to bury hers, breaking the heart of all of us who feel strongly about history," said Joy Shiver, who owns JustaJoy Historical Treasures, a Cornelius store specializing in Civil War artifacts.
Mark Alexander Palmer, president of Historic Preservation of Elmwood/Pinewood Cemetery Inc., encouraged flag supporters to protest the city’s decision at the March 28 council meeting, saying the group would continue to fight until the flag was restored.
"It’s a respect issue," said Rich Woods, commander of Major Egbert A. Ross Camp, a group that maintains the Confederate monument section of the cemetery. "We owe it to these men to honor them."