Groups protest exclusion of Confederate flag at Museum

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Staff Writer

The opening of the Appomattox branch of the Museum of the Confederacy drew a crowd in the hundreds, but among them were protesters that had a gripe about the Confederate battle flag not being flown outside of the museum.

The protests were primarily peaceful, including an airplane that flew overhead prior to the ribbon-cutting for the opening of the museum. The plane carried a banner that with a Confederate flag that read “Reunification by bayonet SCV 1896.”

Prior to the opening, 14 state flags and the United States flag were raised at the “reunification promenade.”

After the raising of the flags, some of the protesters circled around the United States pole waving Confederate flags in protest.

Willie Wells, sergeant for the Mechanized Cavalry, said the group was protesting since Museum President and CEO Waite Rawls made the decision not to have the Confederate battle flag flown outside of the museum despite numerous requests from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans to do so.

“Both flags should be displayed. Both sides came together at the surrender,” said Wells, who described Appomattox as a sacred place.

He said he heard that the reason Rawls would not allow the flag to be flown was so the museum would not risk losing supporters.

Wells, as a member of the museum, toured the museum during a “soft opening” earlier last week. He said he saw controversial exhibits that raised concern as well as sparking questions about their relevance.

For instance, Wells said there was a display of transvestite Rue Paul wearing a dress bearing a Confederate flag. The display was part of a collection of exhibits to show how the Confederate flag is used in present day and its symbolism.

The display has since been removed.

When asked about the exhibit, Rawls said that some displays did not work.

There is a collection of over 20 Confederate flags inside of the museum.

Members of the Mechanized Cavalry, clad in biker attire, travel to different locations to promote their heritage.

The Mechanized Cavalry were not the only group with concerns about the Confederate battle flag not being displayed. Another protesting group was the Third National Flag of the Confederacy.

The Virginia Flaggers, a group that includes members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, voiced their concerns through e-mail correspondence to the museum, said Rawls.

A reunification promenade outside of the museum features 14 flags that seceded and then reunited after the Civil War.

“We made a decision to do a reunification promenade. Everything about Appomattox is the reunification of the country,” said Rawls also noting that in the pledge of allegiance the word indivisible is used. Prior to the Civil War, the word indivisible was not used to describe the country.

The issue of the museum not featuring a Confederate flag began brewing several weeks prior to the museum’s open. There were several media reports and information as to why the museum chose not to feature a Confederate flag.

Even word got out – inaccurately – that the Town of Appomattox had a say in the matter.

During a meeting last week, town council member Steve Conner wanted to set the record straight by stating that the town did not have anything to do with the museum’s flag choice.

Rawls contends that both suggestions were rumors.

© Copyright 2012, Times-Virginian, Appomattox, VA

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