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Confederate flag will fly along I-95
FLAG FLAP

Confederate flag will fly along I-95

Heritage group’s plan draws opposition from state NAACP

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A Confederate heritage group confirmed Tuesday that it plans to fly a 10-by-15-foot Confederate flag along Interstate 95 just south of Richmond.

The flag will fly on a 50-foot pole, and will be visible from the northbound lane, said Susan Hathaway, founder of Virginia Flaggers, the group behind the flag. It’s tentatively scheduled to go up Sept. 28.

“Basically, the flag is being erected as a memorial to the memory and the honor of the Confederate soldiers who sacrificed, bled and died to defend Virginia from invasion,” she said.

The state’s chapter of the NAACP is vocally opposing the move.

“It would be an embarrassment,” said Virginia NAACP Executive Director King Salim Khalfani.

Khalfani said he thinks the flag will be detrimental to efforts to attract tourism to Richmond. “It’s going to continue to make Richmond look like a backwater, trailer park, hick town,” he said.

Hathaway disagreed.

“This will tell people that everyone is welcome,” Hathaway said. “Why do we have to be a place where Southerners who are proud of our heritage are not welcome?”

Hathaway accused Richmond and state officials of excluding Confederate history from their “PC sesquicentennial celebration” of the Civil War. The flag will provide recognition, she said, for the pride many in Richmond feel for the city’s “rich Confederate history.”

Hathaway said the group doesn’t want to offend anyone, and that the flag is intended to honor the area’s heritage.

“This is in no way, in no shape, in no form to aggravate anyone,” Hathaway said. “There’s no intention to stick anything in anybody’s face. … The sole intention of this is to honor our ancestors.”

Khalfani rejected arguments that the flag is intended merely to honor the memory of those who served.

“If they had been successful, I’d still be in chains,” he said.

Hathaway would not say where exactly the flag will be located, adding that it’s not yet clear if the flag will be visible from the southbound side of the highway.

She added that the flag won’t be nearly as big as some American flags used by car dealerships.

The site is particularly significant because Confederate troops are believed to have camped in and around the area during the Bermuda Hundred campaign, according to Hathaway.

The group is perhaps best known in Richmond for its frequent demonstrations outside of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and, more recently, the Museum of the Confederacy. The group feels neither institution pays due respect to the Confederate flag.

“The Virginia Flaggers basically are a group of people who have come together to defend our ancestors, and their symbols and their memorials against attacks by people who want to eliminate them,” Hathaway said.

The dispute with the art museum stems from the absence of the flag from the Confederate Memorial Chapel, which it oversees.

According to a statement from the museum, the chapel still features a number of Confederate flags inside, but lacks them outside, as has been the case for most of the structure’s history.

“Battle flags were introduced to the façade when Lee Jackson Camp No.1, Sons of Confederate Veterans, began leasing the chapel in 1993,” the statement reads. “When renewing that lease in 2010, VMFA asked that the flags be removed, which returned the historic structure to its original appearance.”

The Museum of the Confederacy did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to erecting the flag along I-95 and demonstrating outside museums, the group, now in its second year, works to change legislation, attends memorials carrying Confederate flags and puts stick flags on graves, Hathaway said.

tstrong@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6861

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