LEXINGTON (WSLS 10) – Public displays of Confederate pride are once again the center of debate in the City of Lexington.
The Community Anti-Racism Education, or CARE, initiative has just received city approval for a parade that would replace the traditional Lee Jackson celebration put on every year by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
For the past 17 years, in January, Main Street in Lexington has been the site of a parade featuring Confederate flags and men dressed in civil war uniforms, but this year, the CARE group says, it’s time for a change.
For people living in Lexington, marching soldiers and Confederate flags are a familiar site come Lee Jackson Day in January, but for some, it’s not a welcome tradition.
“A lot of people from out of town would come and harass some of the residents in the Diamond Hill neighborhood, a predominantly black community, and we wanted to create a different atmosphere around that weekend,” said Pastor Lyndon Sayers, with the CARE Initiative.
Sayers says that’s part of the reason he and several others began the CARE Initiative.
This year, the group is organizing its own parade, to honor another historical figure: Martin Luther King.
“We’re welcoming all individuals, but we want to exclude symbols of the Confederacy or symbols that we feel many see as symbols of racism or hatred,” said Sayers.
CARE got its application in first, and this week, City Council approved its plan to operate on the same route, at the same time, as the traditional Confederate parade.
“Just another slap in the face,” said Brandon Dorsey, with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Dorsey says he can’t believe the city is thwarting a 17 year tradition.
“They didn’t bother to sit down with us and say hey what are you all about? They just threw out a bunch of prejudicial assumptions at us,” said Dorsey.
He says all his group is trying to do is honor two men, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, who he feels had nothing to do with racism.
“They said we are going to stand for the principles of the revolution: self governance, freedom, political determination, and they took a stand, as most Virginians did, against federal tyranny. That’s what they were looking at. Lee and Jackson were both opposed to slavery,” said Dorsey.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans are now planning to hold their parade on the following weekend, on January 21st.
Sayers says he apologized to Dorsey’s group for not informing them of his plans, but he does hope that, at some point, public displays of the Confederate flag will disappear for good.
“We do think a public discussion is separate from each individuals private right to celebrate what they think those symbols and histories mean,” said Sayers.
For the CARE group’s parade on Saturday, January 14th, Sayers says all Confederate flag symbols will be banned, but they will be allowed at the Sons of Confederate Veterans parade the following weekend on January 21st.