Roanoke again says it can’t ban confederate flag from Christmas parade
The issue surrounds the flying of the Confederate Flag by the Sons of Confederate Veterans during the annual Christmas Parade in downtown Roanoke.
Despite concerns and a lot of vocal opposition from some Roanoke City Council members, council again said it can not ban the confederate flag from flying at the city’s annual Christmas parade without violating first amendment rights after the Roanoke Branch of the NAACP brought it up in public comment session at council’s regularly scheduled Monday meeting.
The NAACP is concerned with the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veteran’s flying the flag on its float in the parade. The Sons of Confederate Veterans will be able to fly the flag as it has in past years, despite the heavy controversy surrounding it.
Downtown Roanoke Inc. is contracted with the city to organize the parade. It’s that governmental partnership that both the city and DRI said prohibits them from keeping the flag out because it would be a violation of the First Amendment. According to city council, if it was a private event the organizer could do whatever he or she wanted to do, but the city partnership means free speech can not be infringed upon.
“Their flag does not have any appropriate place in any public display as far as I’m concerned,” Roanoke City Councilman Bill Bestpitch said. “But I have to go by the constitution because that’s the oath I took.”
NAACP Roanoke Branch President Brenda Hale said the flags inclusion promotes hate, is offensive, and may ruin the experience for some people at the parade.
“There are other minorities in our community that are suffering, so I’m very concerned about it,” Hale said. “There are people saying they will be protesting the parade by not attending, others are saying we’re just going to turn our backs, that’s a sad thing to say to a six-time All American city.”
Hale said she asked the Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter for a compromise — they would be in the parade, but would not fly the flag. She said they refused the compromise and ended the conversation at that. Councilwoman Price called upon the group to re-examine the options and view the situation from both sides.
“I know that you’re saying it’s a First Amendment right, it’s a Constitutional right,” Hale said. “The flag is an inanimate object, it’s inanimate, it can’t speak, but the volume of hate that it produces, it’s deafening.”
Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have told WDBJ7 it is not a racist group and the flag represents history.