Confederate flag parade float debated

Black leaders take stance against longstanding tradition

BRUNSWICK, Ga. - The Confederate flag has been a symbol of controversy for decades. Some see it as a symbol of hate, others as symbol of pride.

For more than 30 years, that symbol has shown up at the annual Brunswick Christmas Parade, displayed by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans group. Group members march in Civil War attire in front of a float clothed with the Confederate flag.

Now some black leaders are coming forward saying the flags shouldn't be allowed.

There's a lot a of passion on this issue on both sides. Some residents believe the flag is disrespectful and offensive to African-Americans, while others say it's a symbol of their southern heritage.

"I believe if that's what you want to fly and you believe in it, do it," resident Boots Floyd said.

Floyd enjoys seeing at the parade and said he takes the symbol very seriously, as is evidenced by the flag on the front of his flea market on Norwich Street.

He admits his passion for the flag offends some people and likely keeps some African-Americans from patronizing his shop. But he said it doesn't matter. For him, it's about celebrating his heritage and freedom of speech.

Floyd believes the Sons of Confederate Veterans should continue to exercise that same right at the parade.

"That's their heritage," he said. "They got people just like me that was in the war, in the southern part of the war. And they are just expressing their opinion."

"The flag is a symbol of racism," said John Perry, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Brunswick. "And while some people say it's a symbol of our history, that's no different from white men walking down the road with hoods on."

Rev. John Perry, of the local NAACP, said it's a slap in the face to his ancestors, who Confederate soldiers supported the enslavement of. To him, the flag is nothing more than a visual reminder of hatred.

Perry said after years of staying silent about the issue, black leaders are coming together to say the display of the Confederate flag in front of a diverse parade audience is simply unacceptable.

"The more attention that comes to it, the more it brings up the pain of yesterday," he said.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans did not return calls for comment.

"We have never received any complaints until now," City Manager Bill Weeks said. "Sons of Confederate Veterans has participated in the parade for 20+ years. I don't find anything offensive about it. The city accepts any and all applications from groups. We are certainly willing to have a dialogue with people and come to solution."

A local pastor said black leaders plan to enter a float in the parade that will show the community how unhappy they are with this longstanding tradition.

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