Sunday, April 19, 2009

NAACP Seeks To Interfere With Students Honoring Veterans



HOMESTEAD — The Miami-Dade NAACP has asked the school district to bar students from participating in events where Confederate flags and uniforms are displayed.

Brad Brown, the NAACP’s vice president, and Rosemary Fuller, chairperson of the Homestead/Florida City Human Relations Board, met with Miami-Dade Deputy School Superintendent Freddie Woodson on Tuesday, April 14 to request the ban.

Woodson could not be reached for comment about the meeting, and did not return calls about the possible ban, but Fuller expressed optimism.

“He [Woodson] was very concerned and said he is going to try to resolve it,” said Fuller, who said she believes there will likely be counter protests during next year’s Veterans Day parade if Confederate States organizations are allowed to participate, as they did last year.

She said the situation could lead to unrest.

“We’re bringing this to their attention because if these kids go out there, and things get out of hand, we don’t want to see anyone of them harmed because this is a safety issue, as well as one involving civil rights,” she said.

The issue arose late last year after the Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce decided to allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans to participate in the 2008 Veterans Day parade the chamber organized on Nov. 11 in Homestead.

Black parade attendees said they were surprised by the display of the Confederate battle flags, and were caught off guard
at seeing people dressed in Confederate Army uniforms marching during the event.

African Americans around the country say the Confederate flag is a reminder of slavery in the old South. Supporters of the flag say it is an expression of southern pride.

Homestead city officials said they only provide logistical and in-kind support for the Veterans Day event, and therefore have no say in which groups are allowed. Chamber of Commerce officials insist that this is a matter of free speech, and that they have no intention of banning
Confederate States organizations from future parades.

“I have not heard about any requests to the school district regarding the parade. But, I will say that the basic issue here is still legality and civil rights,” wrote Mary Finlan, executive director of the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce in an email sent to the newspaper. “For example, the city and the chamber have received more complaints (including those from some members of the HRB) about the perceived offensive nature of the dances that were performed by the students who accompanied some of our public middle school and high school bands in the parade, than complaints of any other nature.”

The NAACP is requesting full prohibition on public schools and student participation in events that allow Confederate States groups or their flags. The civil rights organization also plans to ask other parade participants not to take part in the parade if there is Confederate paraphernalia in it.