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Sales of Confederate flag are banned at Field Days

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Posted on August 4, 2016 |
By Sam Hartley



NEW HAVEN — There will be no sales of merchandise bearing the image of the Confederate Battle Flag at Addison County Fair and Field Days.

The Field Days Board of Directors on Monday forbade sales of the “Stars and Bars” at the fair, which starts next Tuesday, after it received a petition signed by more than 500 people demanding the ban.

“It’s deeper than an offensive issue,” Cornwall resident Piper Harrell said at the Aug. 1 board meeting. “If you know what that other half of the symbol is, you know what it means. It’s a hate symbol. It has been defined as such. It is used by people who walk in and kill people in this day and age. If (the board) knows that, it doesn’t really matter what people buying it know.”

Harrell, with support from members of the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, created the petition on Change.org a little more than a week before the Aug. 1 board meeting. On the website, 416 signed the petition, and more signed paper versions of the petition bringing the total to more than 500.

What is conventionally known as the Confederate Flag is more accurately called the Confederate Battle Flag, as it was never an official flag of the Confederacy. In the late 1940s, the flag was officially adopted by the pro-segregationist Dixiecrat Party and has been commonly used in an unofficial capacity by the Ku Klux Klan.

Despite her wishes to initiate a civil discussion of the issue, Harrell says that she was subjected to verbal abuse after starting the petition.

“I’ve been told to my face and online that I’m the reason America is so bad, because I brought this up. I’ve been told that I should go burn my American flag in my back yard,” she said. “I’m craving a civil discussion. It’s not just about taking it away from the county fair. It’s about having conversations.”

“I’m dismayed and surprised that people have responded to you in a hateful way because of your participation,” responded Field Days board member Megan Sutton. “I might have thought that people would either sign the petition or keep their thoughts to themselves, so I’m sad about that.

“I think it wasn’t until the (Charleston, S.C., church shooting) last summer that I even realized that the flag had been appropriated in the ’40s and beyond as an anti-civil rights gesture,” she continued. “I never learned that in school. My sense was that it was a continuously used symbol of the Southern states and their attempt to form their own union. That was the depth of my understanding based on my education. I don’t think I’m unusual in that (respect). In this day and age it’s more complicated. I would like to think we all have a deeper understanding now.”

Those who left comments with the petition on the Change.org website were clear in their feelings about the issue.

“If South Carolina can take the flag down, we can certainly ban it from our fair,” wrote John Nordmeyer of Whiting.

“The only heritage the Confederate flag represents is the heritage of slavery and Jim Crow,” wrote Mary K. Cavazos of Middlebury.

“Having grown up in the south, every southerner knows exactly what this flag stands for. It is a symbol of racist division. Nothing else,” wrote Nina Daniel of Starksboro.

“It’s a symbol that is deeply offensive to our African-American sisters and brothers and it’s a flag that represents a culture that wanted to keep their great-grandparents in bondage, as property,” wrote Job Isham of Cornwall. “We would not tolerate the sale of the Nazi flag at the great Addison County Field Days? For the same reasons, let’s not sell this flag there.”

James Foster Jr., president of the board, summed up the reasoning behind the board’s decision in an interview after Monday’s board vote.

“The view of the majority was that it’s a symbol of hate and bigotry and it doesn’t fit with the fabric of the fair,” he said. “It’s not a vital part to the fair. It’s not about kids, it’s not about cattle or animals, horses, sheep, it’s not about tractor pulling, it’s not about cotton candy, it’s not about the rides. That’s what our fair is about.”

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