Confederate flag: License plates, mascots and even a rock star ensnared in debate

What happened in South Carolina is just the beginning.

Calls for removing the Confederate battle flag are spreading across the Southeast, where the cross-bar symbol flies outside some government buildings, gets advertised on specialty license plates and still lives within another state’s flag.

The debate has only intensified after South Carolina took down the Confederate flag from outside its state capitol, following the massacre of nine black church members in Charleston.

Here’s the latest in the battle over the Confederate battlefield flag:

Tom Petty: ‘It was dumb’

Singer Tom Petty said he was “downright stupid” to use the Confederate flag as a backdrop for his Southern Accents tour in 1985, the rock star told Rolling Stone.

“I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant,” Petty told the magazine. “It was on a flagpole in front of the courthouse, and I often saw it in Western movies. I just honestly didn’t give it much thought, though I should have.”

Petty said he supported the removal of the flag from the statehouse grounds and said the symbol “shouldn’t represent us in any way.”

“People just need to think about how it looks to a black person,” he said. “It’s just awful. It’s like how a swastika looks to a Jewish person. It just shouldn’t be on flagpoles.”

Pride rally in Louisiana

But hundreds of protesters in Louisiana disagreed Tuesday night when a sea of motorcycles and trucks roared into West Monroe decked with the Confederate battle flag.

“We won’t stand down and let our heritage be stomped on,” Cole Watson told CNN affiliate KNOE.

He and Brandon Bell were among the hundreds of revelers at the pro-flag rally.

“To us, it’s a symbol of something we believe in,” Bell told KNOE. But he added that the protest isn’t just about the flag itself.

“It’s about taking our liberties away from us, and we don’t like it.”

License tags in Virginia and North Carolina

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, has called for the state to stop issuing specialty plates with Confederate battle flags. He based his decision on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling denying the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty tags with their logo.

But the Virginia chapter of the SCV says it will fight McAuliffe’s plan.

In North Carolina, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory also is calling for an end to SCV tags. “That’s clearly the flag that has been hijacked by people that are misusing that symbolism to set the wrong tone for our nation and for North Carolina,” he told CNN affiliate WRAL.

But there’s a difference of opinion about how to make that happen, reported WRAL. The governor says the legislature will have to rewrite state law, but the state Senate leader says the governor could simply order it to happen.

State flag in Mississippi

The state flag has the Confederate insignia in the left corner. It needs to go, says state House Speaker Philip Gunn. Miss Mississippi agrees. So do the state’s U.S. senators, both Republicans.

But some state legislators are saying not so fast. In a 2001 referendum, Mississippi voted to keep the Confederate symbol on the flag — a fact several legislators cited when contacted by the state’s leading newspaper, the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson.

“At the end of the day, it’s an issue voters have decided,” state Rep. John Moore told the newspaper. “If it was a close vote, it might be worth looking at. But it was a substantial vote, better than two to one.”

Local government in Florida

Protests took place in Marion County, Florida, over the Confederate flag that came down — and then went back up.

After the shootings in Charleston, county administrators took down the flag that had flown outside the administration building in Ocala for two decades, CNN affiliate WFTV said.

But residents complained, partly because the county commission didn’t make the decision. Last week, the commission voted to put the flag back up.

Federal property

A fight over the Confederate flag even popped up in Congress when Republicans proposed a spending bill that had language allowing the flag in federally run cemeteries.

The Republicans ended up yanking the bill after emotional debate, including Rep. John Lewis denouncing the GOP while standing next to a picture of the policeman who beat him at the Selma march, in which the officer wears a helmet with the Confederate flag emblem on it.

House Speaker John Boehner quickly called for a bipartisan group of members to work on a plan to address the issue, but Democrats ignored him. Given the partisan friction in Congress, this fight could break out again.

School mascots

At Vestavia Hills High School, outside of Birmingham, Alabama, parents and students complained that the Rebel Man mascot has a racist connotation, according to CNN affiliate WHNT.

But the mascot has supporters, including the first black student to wear the rebel costume at football games. Calvin Wright wrote a column for the website, saying he was proud to be a Vestavia grad and that “Taking away the mascot isn’t going to solve the sole issue that is at hand with the world — racism!”

But another former mascot, who is white, told that Rebel Man should be dropped because it’s “a symbol that stands for racism and oppression for so many people.”

So far, local officials haven’t made a decision.

One of the most famous Confederate-themed mascots was Colonel Reb, who represented University of Mississippi athletic teams. He was replaced in 2010 with the Rebel Black Bear.

Confederate flag: License plates, statues and even a rock star ensnared in debate
5 things to know for your New Day -- Wednesday, July 15

Leave a Reply