WAYNESVILLE – With some passive help from the sovereign state of Mississippi and active involvement by the Southern Legal Resource Center, devotees of the Confederate flag outflanked the Haywood County Council last weekend.
On Friday, November 30, flag supporters placed two miniature Mississippi state flags in front of the Confederate monument on the grounds of the Haywood County Courthouse. The Mississippi flag prominently features the Confederate battle flag in its upper left corner, but although the county recently enacted a temporary ban on displays of the battle flag on public property and is considering an ordinance that would ban it entirely, the battle flag’s appearance as part of the Mississippi flag in no way violated the very ordinance designed to prevent its display.
The county enacted the flag ban in June after Robert Clark, an attorney now practicing in Waynesville, objected to the practice of placing tiny Confederate flags at the memorial, which was donated to the county in 1940 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The ordinance currently before the county’s board of commissioners specifically prohibits the battle flag’s display on county property at any time. It does allow for placement of the Confederate First National flag (the “Stars and Bars”) at the monument, but only on Confederate Memorial Day (May 10).
The Southern Legal Resource Center, a Black Mountain-based nonprofit law firm which specializes in Southern heritage cases, noticed that the interim flag ban does not apply to “official government flags,” including “the flag of any state or territory of the United States.” Lyons drafted a letter to Haywood County attorney “Chip” Killian, informing him that members of the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Western North Carolina Flaggers intended to place the Mississippi flags at the monument on Friday. “The display of the Mississippi state flag comports in every way with the interim ‘Display Policy’ … and therefore it should not be removed or molested in any way,” Lyons’ letter stated, adding, “premature removal of these flags from county monuments by private persons or state actors constitue[s] theft and monument desecration.”
County atty. Killian was in Waynesville on Friday – his office is in Raleigh – and Lyons delivered the letter to him by hand.
“The County’s interim policy and the proposed policy is still unconstitutional & illegal. But should it be adopted, we have an allowable Confederate Battle flag variant, the Mississippi state flag, that is an “official Government Flag” that can be displayed on County property while the illegal ban on the Confederate Battle flag, for both the interim & proposed policy is fought out,” SLRC Executive Director Thomas Willis said.
Approximately 20 “flaggers” carrying full-sized battle flags and other flags of the Confederacy were present for the placing of the small Mississippi flags. They were joined by several passers-by.
The county council is expected to vote on the proposed flag ban at its December 17 meeting.