Rallies in support of the Confederate Battle Flag continued across the South this weekend following the removal of the racist symbol from the South Carolina State House grounds.
Pro-flag activists covered from head-to-toe in Confederate memorabilia, and holding signs with the well-worn claim, “heritage not hate,” took to the streets to protest a national movement to move the Confederate Battle Flag off government grounds and into museums following last month’s tragic shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME.
Trying to capitalize on more than 50 demonstrations the previous weekend, Confederate flag supporters rallied last weekend at nearly 20 sites across eight states, including Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. While the number of protests dwindled, and the audiences were smaller, two key protests in Ocala, Fla. and Memphis, Tenn. boasted impressive numbers, 5,000 and 500 respectively.
Predictably, hate group members from the neo-Confederate League of the South (LOS) and the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) were on hand to distribute recruiting materials and spread the League’s message: THE MESSAGE
James Edwards, host of the racist radio program The Political Cesspool organized the event in Memphis, which drew more than 500 supporters, in response to a unanimous vote by the Memphis city leaders to remove a monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and exhume his body from graves at the base of the monument. Edwards has made a habit of allowing neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites, and a rotating cast of white nationalists on his program.
“It’s certainly not as if our societal overseers didn’t hate the South and any symbol of our unique identity before the murders that took place in Charleston occurred,” Edwards wrote on his website. “But they have since fully exploited the tragedy in order to launch an attempt to completely eradicate the Confederate flag and any memory of the righteous cause for which it stood”
Edward’s audacious claim that “societal overseers” are exploiting the recent tragedy in Charleston comes tinted with efforts to conceal his own ties to the very reason a movement has swept the country to condemn the Confederate emblem. The CCC, where he is a board member, was credited in accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof’s manifesto as opening his eyes to the false narrative of “black on white crime.”
Edwards’s accusation of a bald opportunism behind efforts to remove the Confederate Battle Flag comes straight tall tales being spun by the LOS of a “cultural genocide” against southerners. The League has recently gone so far as to compare efforts to remove Confederate symbols and memorials from across the country to ISIS’ destruction of ancient monuments and historical treasures in Syria and Iraq.
Over the past two weeks, over 70 Confederate Battle Flag rallies have been documented with more than 10,000 estimated participants. Saturday’s rally in Ocala reportedly featured an eight-mile procession with more than 1,500 cars.
With the backlash against divisive Confederate iconography unlikely to subside in the coming weeks, more outrage from pro-flag activists should be expected, along with a chorus of hatred from the usual extremist suspects.