CRESTVIEW — Representatives from Fort Walton Beach and Tallahassee Confederate heritage organizations have added their thoughts amid some residents’ concern about a rebel flag that flies over a Crestview memorial.
Speaking during Monday evening's City Council meeting, Jack Bonham, Fort Walton Beach Sons of the Confederacy’s past commander, said the flag flying over the William "Uncle Bill" Lundy memorial on the corner of East 1st Avenue and North Ferdon Boulevard honors all Americans.
"All Confederate flags are red, white and blue to show their patriotism for the United States of America," Bonham said.
He said removing the flag from the memorial would be a "slap in the face (to)... veteran soldiers who put their life on the line so you can live the way you do."
During the meeting’s public comment period, Graham Smith, heritage defense chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Florida Division, said his group "is dedicated to preservation of heritage of the South."
He reminded the council that when the flag issue was raised 11 years ago, the council "unanimously dismissed it."
"Nothing about the symbolism about the flag flying over the monument for Pvt. William Lundy has changed since then," Smith said.
Smith said “hate groups” that “twist and misrepresent” the flag's meaning pain his organization.
Sabu Williams, speaking as president of the NAACP’s Okaloosa County chapter, said he had been among delegates raising concerns over the flag 11 years ago.
"The issues haven't changed. Feelings haven't changed. People still feel very offended by the flag," Williams said.
"It's so offensive to me because it's a battle flag. It represents Americans going into battle to kill other Americans."
Community activist Mae Reatha Coleman raised the issue during the Sept. 9 city council meeting when she said she wants the flag to come down because it divides the community.
Council president Robyn Helt said the issue will be officially raised during a future council meeting when city staff have prepared a report on the memorial and ownership of the property it stands on.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.