Confederate group unfurls battle flags, criticisms of state's potential removal of Jefferson Davis statue from Capitol

07/24/2015 07:27 PM

FRANKFORT — Dozens of Confederate flags flew on the Capitol grounds Friday as more than 100 demonstrators protested the potential removal of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ 15-foot marble statue from the Capitol Rotunda.

Organizers urged the crowd to sign letters against taking Davis’ statue from the Capitol as well as statements condemning the use of the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate.

The state’s Historic Properties Advisory Commission is set to reconsider the panel’s guidelines on rotunda statues at an Aug. 5 special meeting after more than a month of public comment.

Calls for the removal of Davis’ statue erupted in wake of the fatal shootings of nine churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., last month. Dylann Roof, 21, faces 33 federal felony charges, including 12 hate crime charges, in the slayings.

Those who rallied at the Capitol Friday decried Roof’s actions. David Chaltas, a living historian who depicts Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, said the families of those killed in the June 17 attack demonstrated forgiveness, but he blamed “agitators” for targeting the Confederate flag in the tragedy’s aftermath.

Roof was photographed multiple times with the Confederate flag as well as other emblems embraced by white supremacists, such as the apartheid-era South African flag.

“His acts represent hate as only the devil himself can muster, and I for one refuse to be a part of such feelings,” Chaltas said. “But to blame that flag, those monuments, those statues and even those sacred grounds of our forefathers is in itself insanity.”

Other states have taken steps to remove Confederate flags and monuments, most notably South Carolina, where the battle flag was first raised above the statehouse in 1961 and ultimately removed from Capitol grounds July 10.

Kentucky’s Department of Parks announced in a news release Thursday that vendors will no longer sell items bearing the Confederate flag at state park gift shops except those that feature both the U.S. and Confederate flags or puts the flag in a historical context. The Kentucky State Fair Board decided the same day to ban the sale of Confederate items in future contracts with vendors, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Demonstrators didn’t address those moves during their rally. Instead, they said removing Davis’ likeness from the Capitol would set a dangerous precedent for other statues and monuments.

They also heaped praise on Davis, who was born in Fairview, as an American hero for his service to both the U.S. and Confederacy in his lifetime.

Susan McCrobie, a historian and deputy county clerk in Hardin County, went a step further, saying if she had a choice between removing the statues of Davis and former President Abraham Lincoln from the Capitol, she would choose Lincoln’s. She claimed Lincoln as a distant cousin in her remarks.

“Cousin Lincoln wanted those Confederate states under his control,” she said. “The federal government enjoyed revenues from those rich South lands. Cousin Lincoln sent his military into these states to take control by whatever means was necessary, and cousin Lincoln allowed Gen. Stephen Burbridge to place this state under military control and to murder our citizens without just cause.”

While the crowd sang “Dixie” and afterward chanted, “Leave this alone,” in reference to the flag, state workers and Capitol visitor filtered in and out of the Capitol and took in the scene.

Djuan Trent, a government worker, said she was shocked to see the Confederate battle flags waving as she stepped out for a walk around the grounds.

“I came around the corner and just heard a bunch of rallying and yelling, and then I saw all these flags flying around in the air, which really caught me off guard and really kind of upset me,” she told reporters.

Trent said the Civil War and slavery are part of the country’s heritage, meaning the flag is also a piece of that fabric, “but I think that the flag has evolved into more than just a symbol of heritage and a lot of people see it as a symbol of hate.

She agrees with those who find the flag offense and said it and Davis’ statue should be placed in a museum, although she said keeping the marble rendering in the Rotunda would be “fine.”

“There are, like I said before, lots of symbols of things that take us back to things in our history that we probably would not want to remember or don’t want to celebrate so much, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of our heritage,” Trent said. “I think that moving it to a museum or moving it someplace else that is less public is a symbol of respecting those who feel offended by it. It’s respecting those who don’t necessarily want to celebrate slavery and genocide and all of the negative things that can be associated with that.”

David Hiter, a division chaplain for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and a former division commander, suggested that images of Roof with the Confederate flag were Photoshopped based on comments from his friend, a moviemaker. Hiter added that he didn’t know whether such comments were true.

“The reason’s very simple,” he said. “They needed an excuse to attack that flag.”

Hiter said his group will protest any additional steps taken against Confederate emblems, such as Davis’ memorial in Fairview and Confederate cemeteries.

“We’ll fight,” he said. “We’ll reject, we’ll object, we’ll complain, we’ll make noise, we’ll have rallies, but we’re not initiating anything. We didn’t initiate any of this. This was forced on us.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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