ELYRIA — Sam Felton, a decorated Northeast Ohio veteran of Lorain, spoke out Sunday afternoon against a policy that he said “defies logic.”
At a rally organized by the Fair-Minded Coalition of Lorain County, Felton said the Lorain County Fair’s decision to continue to allow vendors to sell Confederate flags promotes a war where brother fought against brother and slavery.
“This flag is not what I fought in Vietnam for,” Felton said. “How can people think this is a legacy worth celebrating? Why would we want to celebrate and promote a legacy that championed enslaving others?”
This is the second year the Fair Board’s decision to permit the sale of the Confederate flag at the weeklong event has caused controversy.
The board has said it will no longer comment on the controversy, citing it as a freedom of speech issue, which ramped up after the racially motivated shooting of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church June 17, 2015.
State Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, said while he hasn’t commented on this issue before, it was time to speak out.
“Seven score and 15 years ago, (thousands of) American troops left to fight in the Civil War, and some of them were from Lorain County,” he said. “Many gave the ultimate sacrifice during that war on both sides.”
Ramos said what is commonly referred to as the Confederate flag was not actually the flag that flew over the Confederate capital building and statehouses — it was the battle flag for the northern Virginian Army.
“It’s a flag that flew when they were going into battle,” he said. “They took up that flag when they were going to kill soldiers from Lorain County. ‘Support our troops,’ which is a phrase that really hit prominence after Iraq and Afghanistan, means all troops. It means those who came back from Vietnam feeling unwelcome, those who were forgotten in Korea, those from the great wars and those who fought brother against brother in the Civil War.”
The Rev. Paul Wilson, of First United Methodist Church in Wellington, said as someone born and raised in southern Louisiana, it bothers him to see the flag sold and even displayed.
“Where I came from, if you displayed the Confederate flag, it meant you were a member of the (Ku Klux) Klan or someone in your family was,” he said. “I get that people have the right to sell or display this flag, which serves as a symbol of racism. But they shouldn’t be doing it at the fair. It shouldn’t be under my name, yours or Lorain County’s.”
Another anti-Confederate flag rally will take place 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Veterans Memorial Park in Lorain.
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