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Sunday, Jun 05, 2005
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Posted on Sun, Jun. 05, 2005
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Group seeks to spur public outcry

Order to fly rebel flag rankles NAACP

COLUMBIA — The NAACP expressed outrage Saturday over Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt’s order to fly the Confederate flag over a state historic site, and asked the public to rally against it.

Blunt ordered the flag flown today, for one day only, at the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site near Higginsville in honor of Confederate Memorial Day.

The order came after Rep. Mike McGhee, an Odessa Republican, made the request on behalf of local residents.

Mary Ratliff, the president of the Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she had already written the governor to ask him to reconsider.

“We were very much surprised and hurt and appalled,” Ratliff said during a break from the group’s regularly scheduled meeting Saturday in Columbia.

Blunt could not be reached Saturday for comment.

Ratliff said the Missouri State Conference was asking for approval from NAACP officials in Washington to hold a small informational rally at 1:30 p.m. today at the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City.

“I hope that he will see our resilience” and use legal means to make sure the flag is not raised, Ratliff said.

Ratliff and other NAACP members are asking the public to voice their objections to the order, urging them to contact Blunt or their state representatives.

They also asked Missouri residents to fly the American flag Sunday.

“We are one country, one nation,” Ratliff said. “We should have one flag expressing that nation.”

Ratliff said the group was planning a protest at the governor’s mansion instead of the Confederate memorial because the group did not oppose the ceremony, only the raising of the Confederate flag.

The Rev. Gill Ford, NAACP Region IV director, acknowledged that individuals have the right to free speech, but spoke against Blunt’s action.

“The reality is that when government becomes involved, then you get an endorsement,” Ford said.

He called the Confederate flag a symbol of hatred and terror.

McGhee said Saturday that he asked the governor to lift a two-year-old ban on flying the flag after receiving a request from residents in Higginsville.

“It’s not a racist thing,” McGhee said. “Those soldiers died for that flag. They earned it, whether you agree with their cause or you don’t agree with their cause.”

The site was founded several years after the Civil War as a home for Confederate veterans. The property eventually came under state control.

The Confederate flag flew at the Confederate memorial and Fort Davidson State Historic Site at Pilot Knob until 2003, when Gov. Bob Holden ordered it taken down.

McGhee compared flying the Confederate flag over the memorial to the Mexican flag flying over a Texas memorial for Mexican soldiers killed in the Mexican War, the British flag flying over a Revolutionary War memorial on the East Coast, and the American flag flying in France over the graves of U.S. soldiers who were killed there.

“I did what I thought was the right thing to do,” said McGhee, who added that he believed the memorial was the only place the flag should be displayed. “Anybody who thinks we can change history is mistaken.”

During the 2005 legislative session, McGhee sponsored a bill that would have created a special parks board with the power to decide whether Confederate flags could be placed on headstones or flown over state historic sites. The measure met stiff resistance from Democrats, and legislators did not act on it.

McGhee said any decision on whether the flag should be allowed to fly at the memorial for more than a single day should be made by others.

“I probably would have been a Northerner,” he said.

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