Confederate flag now flies over East Texas courthouse

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on April 1, 2011 at 11:10 PM

Updated Saturday, Apr 2 at 9:53 PM

Palestine, Texas

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PALESTINE, Texas — Underneath the U.S. and Texas flags, a third banner now flies over an East Texas courthouse — The Confederate flag.

This week, Anderson County commissioners narrowly approved a motion to raise a replica of the original Confederate flag with two red stripes, one white stripe and seven stars on a field of blue.

They say this is not about race, but some offended residents say, of course, it is.

Local members of the NAACP came out to protest and turned their backs as the Confederate flag was hoisted up the flagpole.

The issue has raised racial tensions in a community where they were already high.

The flag-raising was a moment of pride for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Turned out in grey, they raised the first flag of the confederacy, honoring 1,100 men from Anderson County who fought in the Civil War.

"It's about Anderson County.... the men that marched away from that courthouse to fight," explained Dollye Jeffus of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

It was a moment of shame, though, for Kenneth Davidson, president of the Palestine NAACP, who is himself a war veteran. He led a group that turned their backs in protest as the flag went up at the county courthouse.

"I could not do it. I could not do it, because I didn't fight for that," Davidson said.

His history with the Confederate flag is one of slavery and oppression and — he says — now a tangible sign of strained race relations in Palestine. "It's a 'good old boy' system here," Davidson said.

Earlier in the week, Anderson County Commissioners approved the flag raising in a 3-2 vote.

When the idea was presented in session, Commissioner Joey Hill said they were told it has nothing to do with race. "To me, it is not a racial issue," he said.

The Confederate flag, however, is clearly disturbing to some citizens of the county. "I wish more people would've come in," Hill said. "That courtroom is open to the public. I wish more people would've come in and stated what they thought about."

But Hill said he still would have voted in favor of the controversial symbol. "Because me personally, I don't think it's a racial issue," he said.

There's a wide gap in perception in Anderson County about what this flag means. But on Friday morning, there was also a flicker of hope that perhaps that gap can be bridged by drawing each side closer to understanding the other side.

The mayor of Palestine has called an emergency meeting on Monday. He hopes to pass a resolution asking the county to take down the Confederate flag.

This is not the only effort to put the Confederate flag on public display.

The Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans want to build a Confederate memorial on Interstate 10 near the Louisiana border.

And a program called Flags Across the South is trying to get the Confederate flag flown on private properties.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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