WELLINGTON — The Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County has launched a Change.org petition calling for a ban on the sale of the Confederate flag at the Lorain County Fair.
The petition, which had garnered 65 out of the 100 signatures it was seeking as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, called the flag a “shameful symbol of our nation’s past” and pointed out that state fairs in Ohio and elsewhere have banned the flag.
“Our Coalition is comprised of many Lorain County entities that believe the confederate flag has no place at an event celebrating our county’s rich agricultural heritage, and that its presence is offensive, controversial, and embarrassing,” the petition said. “We urge you to stand with us and ban the sale.”
Fair Board President Brian Twining declined to discuss the petition.
“We have no comment,” Twining said. “We’re focused on making the best fair we can for 2016.”
The controversy over the Confederate flag started during last year’s fair when county Commissioner Matt Lundy urged the Fair Board to ban its sale after he saw it during a visit to the fair.
The Fair Board promised to review the issue after the fair concluded, but later rejected requests from Lundy and others, including the Fair Minded Coalition and Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini, to do so.
Fair leaders have argued that the sale and display of the Confederate flag on the Lorain County Fairgrounds is a free-speech issue.
Jeanine Donaldson, who heads the Fair Minded Coalition, has countered that flag violates the Fair Board’s own rules, which allow the board to ban “concessions of questionable nature.”
Donaldson said the petition is part of an overall strategy to pressure the Fair Board into banning the flag. The Fair Minded Coalition also has called on organizations that normally participate in the fair to skip it this year.
Among the groups boycotting the fair this year are the Lorain County Democratic Party and the county commissioners, who have decided that the Lorain County Solid Waste Management District will not have its normal booth.
Giardini said although he assumes some individual Democratic officeholders will head to the fair to campaign, his party won’t have a dedicated booth and will stay away from Fair Board activities such as the annual breakfast, a popular event with politicians.
Giardini said although the flag took on an almost comical aspect when it appeared on the General Lee car in the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard” decades ago, many people, particularly those who hail from the South, view the flag as a racist symbol.
“For many people, it conjures up feelings of fear,” he said.
Lorain County Republican Party Chairwoman Helen Hurst said her party still intends to rent out a booth at the fair and has no plans to boycott the event this year.
She said the market will ultimately determine whether the Confederate flag remains for sale at the fair in the future.
“If people didn’t buy them, they wouldn’t sell them,” she said.
Donaldson said her coalition intends to host two rallies supporting the American flag during fair week, which runs Aug. 22-28.
She said the first rally will be 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 21 in Ely Square, while the second will be 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 28 at Veterans Park in Lorain.
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