Rolling rally held in Lapeer area to show support for Confederate flag

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on July 27, 2015 at 6:52 PM, updated July 28, 2015 at 4:00 AM

Cars gather in Walmart parking lot during rally for Confederate flag in LapeerIn this video courtesy of Amber LaFrance, participants gather Sunday, July 26, 2015, in the Walmart parking lot in Lapeer to show their support for the Confederate flag. More than 50 people took part in the mobile rally between Oxford and Lapeer.

LAPEER, MI – More than 50 vehicles motored between Oxford and Lapeer on Sunday afternoon, July 26, with flags flapping in the breeze.

Some of the stars and stripes in the back of their vehicles were U.S. flags, but they were all joined by the Confederate flag as the group of people held a rolling rally to show support for the symbol they say is not connected to racism, but to heritage.

“It symbolizes today Southern pride and states’ rights. That’s just it,” said Amber LaFrance, 26, of Port Huron, who joined in the ride from Oxford to Lapeer, where she said a man from Charleston, South Carolina, thanked the group for their support.

The Confederate flag has been taken down outside the capitol building in Charleston following the June 17 shooting deaths of nine black church-goers at the hands of 21-year-old suspect Dylann Roof, who faces murder and hate crime charges.

Photos of Roof with the Confederate flag surfaced after the mass shooting.

LaFrance argued the symbol was used “as a battle flag fighting for states’ rights. That’s it.” She decided to take part in the rally after spotting a Facebook post.

Police in Lapeer came to the event in the parking lot outside the Wal-Mart store on West Genesee Street. But 26-year-old resident Jay Casas called the gathering “a peaceful event” and said, “We had no intentions to disrespect anyone at all.” Lapeer police did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

“Some people did not like it and told the manager at (Wal-Mart),” he said. “She came out and talked with us, and she let us know she contacted the police. When the police got there, everyone left. We didn’t burn anything or destroy anything. We met peaceful, as it is our right to do, so that’s all it really was.”

Rather than being divided by the subject of the flag and race, Casas said people need to come together.

“I say that we the people of the United States need to unite and understand that,” he said. “I believe our government is trying to start a race battle. No one cared about the Confederate flag until the shooting in Charleston.”

He added with the flag now being taken out of stores due to some people finding offensive, “In that case, do you think in time the red and blue bandanas will stop being sold in stores because it represents gang violence? The flag to me is a part of our history. A lot of people died for the battle flag.”

Casas, who offered his condolences to the shooting victims in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said, “I would like them to know that the American flag was used more by the KKK rather than the Confederate battle flag.”