Flag fight may sever Florida City’s ties with Homestead chamber
Written by ELGIN JONES
FLORIDA CITY — In the latest flap over the display of the Confederate flag at a Veterans Day parade in Homestead, the city’s next-door neighbor may cancel its decades-long membership in the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce.
Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace said his city will withdraw its membership in the chamber if Confederate States groups and their flags are allowed in this year’s Veterans Day parade in Homestead, as planned.
"I brought forward my personal feelings with the idea that we would cancel our membership if the chamber does not disavow itself from the parade, and the Military Affairs Committee, if the Confederate flag is going to be flown," Wallace told the South Florida Times. "It was supported by the other [council] members. I am going to meet with the chamber’s executive board on Friday, and see what their position is. The chamber itself has said it does not support having the Confederate flag in the parade, but says the final decision is up to the Military Affairs Committee."
The chamber is designed to promote the interests of business owners in the South Dade area. The Military Affairs Committee (MAC) has organized the annual Veterans Day parades there since 1961.
Citing freedom of speech, the committee voted last week not to bar or otherwise restrict Confederate States organizations from this year’s parade, scheduled to take place on the national holiday, Wednesday, Nov. 11.
At Florida City’s regular city commission meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7, Wallace raised the possibility of severing ties with the chamber if Confederate States organizations are allowed to participate in this year’s parade.
The participation of Confederate States groups would likely include the display of the Confederate battle flag and other Confederate paraphernalia, such as Confederate Army uniforms, as were displayed in last year’s parade.
Supporters of the Confederate flag say it is a symbol of southern pride. Opponents, including many members of the black community, say it is a reminder of slavery and lynching.
Chamber of Commerce officials could not be reached for comment.
Wallace said Chamber of Commerce officials told him in recent meetings and conversations that the Military Affairs Committee was once part of the chamber, but that it separated years ago, forming a separate, independent organization.
"I’m an attorney, and I’ve never heard of a committee going around making decisions the parent organization disagrees with," said Wallace, who is African-American.
According to records on file with the Florida Secretary of State’s Division of Corporations, the Military Affairs Committee of Homestead, Florida Inc. was formed on Aug. 8, 1971. The records show that the organization has been dissolved by proclamation and inactive since July 2, 1973.
Calls to the Military Affairs Committee’s offices were referred to the committee’s chairman, Jeff Wander, who could not be reached for comment.
The controversy over the Confederate flag in Homestead began when some members of the community complained that they were offended when they saw the Sons of Confederate Veterans group displaying the Confederate battle flag at last year’s Veterans Day parade on Nov. 11, 2008.
Since that time, several organizations, including the Miami-Dade NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, have been meeting with chamber and MAC officials, but have not been able to reach agreements.
Wallace’s meeting with chamber officials is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at an undisclosed location.
"I told the chamber if they continue their relationship with the Military Affairs Committee and the parade, then Florida City will vote to leave the chamber," Wallace said.