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Against Protest, Walton County in Panhandle Joins Marion to Let Confederate Flag Fly For Now

| July 14, 2015

The Confederate flag flies near the white monument to the left, in front of the Walton County Courthouse. (Google)

The Confederate flag flies near the white monument to the left, in front of the Walton County Courthouse. (Google)

After a heated public hearing, the Walton County Commission on Tuesday voted to postpone for two weeks a vote on whether to take down the Confederate flag at the county courthouse in DeFuniak Springs.

The motion to postpone by Commissioner Sara Comander prompted a storm of protest and applause in a packed meeting room at an annex of the courthouse in Santa Rosa Beach. But the motion was quickly seconded and approved.

Dozens of attendees wore buttons with the message “Take Down the Flag.” Others wore the Confederate battle flag as T-shirts or logos — one speaker even wore it as a necktie.

“If you vote to remove the flag, the next step will be the banishment of the monument,” Phillip White warned the commissioners. “Many people in this country and this state ask, when and where will it end.”

Across the county, in DeFuniak Springs, the Confederate battle flag flies over a monument to the Confederate war dead. Local attorney Daniel Uhlfelder — who first tried to get the commission to take down the flag in 2002 and lost 5-0 — said the monument wasn’t the problem.

“We have no issues with it staying where it is,” Uhlfelder said. However, he added, Walton County never had a Confederate flag at the courthouse until 1964 — when commissioners voted for it shortly before President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. “It was a political statement against integration, against human rights.”

“When you see this flag, it brings back memories of a time when we had separate waiting rooms at the bus station, black and white drinking fountains at the courthouse,” said Raymond Jackson, president of Northwest Florida branch of the NAACP. “The county commission put this flag up (in 1964) to let us know where they stood on our civil rights.”

The debate echoes others taking place in Southern states since last month, when white supremacist Dylann Roof gunned down nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, S.C.

But speakers Tuesday said they’d had enough of the lowered flags that followed the massacre. One, Danny Katro of Freeport, referred to Roof as a “snotty-nosed punk” and noted that while photos had surfaced online of Roof wearing a Gold’s Gym T-shirt as well as a Confederate flag, “I don’t see anybody boycotting Gold’s Gym.”

Other opponents of removing the flag pointed to Marion County, where on Sunday an estimated 2,000 people rode in the Florida Southern Pride Ride, wearing T-shirts marked “Heritage, Not Hate” and waving Rebel flags. The demonstration in Ocala followed a vote by the Marion County Commission to restore the Confederate flag — which had been removed after the Charleston killings — to the McPherson Governmental Complex.

Whatever they decide, Walton County commissioners are certain to face angry voters. Reached by telephone before the meeting, state Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who represents the area, said commissioners should “look into their hearts.” He also pointed out that the flag currently flying at the Walton County Courthouse is not the “Stars and Bars” of the Confederate Army, but a symbol of the Jim Crow era.

“As a public official, I certainly don’t want a symbol of hate flying over public buildings in Florida,” Gaetz said. “I know it’s not meant that way by many people. I know many people revere their Southern ancestors and revere their sacrifice. … But I agree with Governor (Jeb) Bush that it’s time for this relic of history to be in a history museum.”

Gaetz and Uhlfelder noted that as governor, Bush had removed the Confederate flag from the state Capitol to a museum.

“If we do not remove the Confederate flag, we will be one of the last courthouses in the entire country to fly it,” Uhlfelder said. “Do we want to be the last flag standing?”

Now, with the decision postponed until July 28, some citizens worry about its potential to divide their community.

“Of course, I’m hoping that the landmark stays as is,” said Richard Roberts, who wore the Confederate flag as a logo on his shirt. “If not, I’m sure that as a community, we’ll move forward. I just hope that everyone can deal with whatever the outcome is.”

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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7 Responses for “Against Protest, Walton County in Panhandle Joins Marion to Let Confederate Flag Fly For Now”

  1. Lancer says:

    It’s great watching how tolerant the left is…unless they don’t agree with something. Welcome to a preview of the USSA.

  2. Yellowstone says:

    Here it is 2015 – just 42 years later . . .

    Jefferson Davis said in 1873, “The south shall rise again”

    (Ya’ll give rebel yell!!)

  3. Geezer says:

    “Allen Says” is curiously silent.
    I think that his keyboard went on strike due to overuse and torturous conditions.
    Oh wait – he’s probably a non-union kind of dude.
    Unions are for fancy Yankees, of course.

    The south won’t rise again. Unless they see a doctor and get an RX.

  4. Sherry E says:

    The “left” will NEVER be tolerant of hatred of humans, racism, bigotry, discrimination, taking away women’s rights over their own bodies, injustice, corruption, anarchy, taking the law into one’s own hands, any religion imposing itself into the laws of the land and over the rights of others, the lack of equal opportunity for all.. . . . etc. etc. etc. So, NO. . . we are absolutely NOT tolerant of EVERYTHING, and we do not claim to be!

  5. Footballen says:

    How tolerant are you of Mohamed who just shot and killed four Marines and a Sailor as they worked in an office building doing the duties of a recruiter? They were not doing anything to bother anyone, just screening young candidates who chose to serve their country. Should the Islamic flag now be removed from every place the public could view it? Where is the cry for justice for these decent, moral and honorable human beings and their families? Why no outcry for the removal of all that is Muslim? You know why. Your own ignorance in THIS situation.

  6. Sherry E says:

    So, “Footballen, by your twisted logic, if a US citizen shoots and kills anyone. . . the “American” flag should be removed from “every place the public could view it”. Of course, those who are not racists consider murder to be terribly wrong regardless of the colors of the skin of those involved.

    Please note this article is about flags flown on GOVERNMENT buildings ONLY! Your anger and bigotry is very well noted.

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