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Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:00

Confederate flag flap in holding pattern in Haywood

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The Haywood County Board of Commissioners have postponed voting on a controversial flag display policy until after the New Year, but that did not keep Confederate flag supporters from protesting outside the county courthouse Monday.

If passed, the proposed policy would allow the display of any “official government flag” but would ban the Confederate Battle Flag from county property. It would also limit the size and times that flags or other displays could be posted.

Mark Swanger, chairman of the county board, said the commissioners did not address the policy at its Monday meeting because they needed more time to research the matter. The earliest that the board of commissioners could vote on the display policy is at its Jan. 7 meeting.

Even though the county announced that the topic would not be broached Monday, a couple of Confederate flag supporters did not miss the opportunity to address the board. Like other speakers at other meetings before them, they contended that the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage, not racism.

“This flag has nothing to do with slavery,” said Ronnie Parker. Parker then complained that the county displays flags of other countries that still practice slavery and terrorism during Folkmoot, the county’s two-week international dance and music festival in July.

Kirk Lyons, chief trial counsel with the Southern Legal Resource Center, also took a moment to correct what he deemed misconceptions by county leaders.

“Nobody in our office threatened you with a lawsuit,” Lyons said. “Is there a possibility of a lawsuit? Well, keep the policy the way it is, and you will find out.”

Lyons added that a lawsuit would be a last resort, and referred to himself as “your pesky neighbor,” simply offering his opinions on the proposed policy.

Monday’s comments are just another page in the months-long battle between proponents and opponents of the Confederate flag. The controversy’s roots go all the way back to August when residents complained that small Confederate flags being placed in the ground around the base of the Confederate Memorial on the lawn of the historic courthouse were offensive.

That prompted commissioners to temporarily ban the flags pending passage of a formal policy. The policy being considered would ban the controversial Confederate Battle flag and allow only “official government flags,” including those of those of other countries.

That clause was aimed at preserving the tradition of decorating the courthouse with international flags during the Folkmoot festival, but has also been used as a loophole by Confederate flag supporters, who took to flying the state flag of Mississippi, which has a small version of the Stars and Bars in one corner of it.

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