Civil War remembrance monument stirs up tension in community
Mar 05, 2011 9:09
BELLMEAD- A dedication ceremony for a Confederate flag and monument to honor soldiers who fought for the confederacy is sparking controversy among residents and community leaders.
Dozens gathered along Interstate 35 in Bellmead, north of Waco, for the ceremony Saturday afternoon. The dedication was meant to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Texas joining the Confederacy.
McLennan County residents who supported the Confederacy as well as members of the group, "Sons of Confederate Veterans" say the monument and the battle flag are meant to honor the legacy and past of the Confederate soldiers. However, others say all it honors is hatred.
"It represents slavery, it represents oppression, it represents hypocrisy. It represents everything that the union fought, or the nation fought to get rid of," said McLennan County Commissioner, Lester Gibson.
"Slavery was an issue, but the thing about it is only four percent of the soldiers that fought owned slaves, so my question back to those people is why did the other 96 percent put their life on the line? It all goes back to because someone attacks your homeland and you have a rifle in your hand, you shoot at 'em, simple as that," said Charles Oliver, Commander for Waco's Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Oliver says those who came out for the celebration all understand what the battle flag stands for and why those soldiers fought for the Confederacy. He says the flag should remind people of the Civil War and those who sacrificed their lives.
"My ancestors that fought died for this battle flag right here. If you cut open a vein on me this blood comes out of my wrist here. I'm a third generation Confederate soldier."
Still, others like Commissioner Gibson believe it's all a past that shouldn't be celebrated.
"I'm a descendent of slaves. I am 61-years-old and I understand what segregation and Jim Crowe is."
While the Confederate battle flag is often thought of as a symbol of hate, Oliver says it's simply just misunderstood.
"The Texas flag that you see here, that's a Confederate battle flag. Our people have the same feeling against that flag that they have against the St. Andrews flag, so you can look at it that way."
"We're supposed to be Americans under one flag. It's not representing America at all and especially not Texas," said Pastor Larry Brown of the Waco NAACP.
The group did have to get permission to fly the flags. Both the flag and the monument are on private property. Therefore, despite the division the two have already caused, community leaders say there is nothing they can do about it.
"They have a right to assembly, they have a right of speech, but at the same time it's a repressive idea that is bad for McLennan County," said Gibson.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans say they hope the display will raise questions by the thousands of people who drive by them every day. They want to teach others about their past and what the confederate soldiers stood for.
"Our main purpose as the sons and daughters is to keep alive the good name of the Confederate soldier and that's exactly what we are going to do," said Oliver.
The ceremony in Bellmead is also part of a much larger program called "Flags Across the South." The purpose of the program is to fly flags across the South on private properties. The organization says they also plan on putting up flags in different parts of Central Texas, including Fletcher Cemetery of Highway 77 and off Highway 281, south of Lampassas.