Stolen Confederate flags rile family

MARTY BICEK/THE BEE
By MICHAEL MELLO
BEE STAFF WRITER

Donna Rawlins has promised that her Southern flag will rise again.

Two Confederate battle flags have been stolen from outside her northeast Modesto residence in the past month, she said, acts she considers a "hate crime."

The first disappeared from its spot in front of the garage about a month ago. Only a shred of the second, smaller flag remains, after someone tore it from the front door screen last week.

"Out here, they’re not easy to find," Rawlins said. "The big one came from Georgia. It was a gift from my son."

She can’t understand why somebody thinks her flags can’t exist peacefully on a cul-de-sac with the Stars and Stripes, and other decorative banners.

"I see Mexican flags flying. I see other flags flying. Why can’t I fly my flag?" Rawlins asked. "I’m from the South. It’s my culture."

The "Missourah" native said she moved out West after getting married, but never forgot her roots, even naming her daughter Rebel (after Gen. Robert E. Lee), and her son Shenandoah after the valley in Virginia.

Rawlins said she understands some people may snub the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism or strife. It isn’t, she said; rather, it’s a symbol of people standing up for their ideals.

"People don’t understand the truth about the Civil War. It wasn’t about slavery. It was about politics," Rawlins said. "I’m very proud of that flag. … They shouldn’t be breaking the law to get their point across."

And, Rawlins said, she’s never had any problems with neighbors.

Police confirmed a report had been filed, but it had not yet been classified a hate crime. According to the California Penal Code, a hate crime has an "expression of hostility against a person or property or institution because of the victim’s real or perceived race, religion, disability, gender, (or) nationality."

Regardless, "We’re going to keep putting things up," said Megan Gorman, Rawlins’ granddaughter. "The way I see it, if we don’t put anything else back up, we’re showing them they’ve won. It’s a flag that represents part of our history."

Bee staff writer Michael Mello can be reached at 578-2235 or mmello@modbee.com.

Link: http://www.modbee.com/local/story/8506971p-9351716c.html