Hillsborough can't remove Confederate flag listen06/04/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Hillsborough County Commissioners today acknowledged that they can do nothing legally to remove a huge Confederate Flag that was hung yesterday at the junction of Interstate 75 and I -4, and is scheduled to be unveiled publicly next year.
However, Commissioner Jim Norman suggested that organizers think of hoisting a large American flag at the spot instead, and he urged the Sons of Confederate Veterans to work with members of the NAACP on such a compromise.
In 2005, a county land use hearing officer approved a request by Sons of Confederate Veterans member Marion Lambert's for a lighted park with monuments and a flagpole "to commemorate American veterans."
Commissioner Rose Ferlita raised the issue, acknowledging that it was legal for the group to hoist such a flag, but she said it would only fragment the community.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, six people commented on the flag issue, five supported it. But Michelle Williams was vehemently against it, what she called a "monstrosity.â€ She carried with her pictures of Blacks hung and lynched that she displayed on boards. Williams said she wanted to see some officials needed to be courageous and stop the flag from being hung.
Bart Siegel said those who call the Confederate flag a symbol of hate should feel obligated to defend their position, and he called for a public debate on the issue.
Interstate drivers got a sneak preview of the 50-foot by 30-foot flag Tuesday as organizers marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America.
For years, Hillsborough County Commissioners had routinely presented proclamations to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. But last year, the board changed the policy after it was embarrassed when it honored Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on the same morning as a civil rights leader.
Chastened, the board then voted 4-3 against designating last April as Southern Heritage Month. Confederate member Marian Lambert has made regular visits to the County Commission over the past year, criticizing the board for that move.
Norman said he hoped that instead of the giant Confederate Flag, organizers could come together with perhaps members of the NAACP and propose instead putting up the American flag.
Commissioner Kevin White told Confederate members in the audience that they might be correct that there is an ignorance and lack of history amongst members of the public as to their criticism of the flag. But he said that perception is reality, and they needed to deal with that.