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Group plans to continue fight against rebel flag sales at fair

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    Pastor Paul Wilson of Wellington First United Methodist Church speaks at the Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County forum on the Confederate flag at the church on Aug. 23.


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    A crowd listens at the Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County forum on the Confederate flag at First United Methodist Church in Wellington on Aug. 23.



WELLINGTON — People intend to continue fighting the Lorain County Fair Board’s decision to allow sales of Confederate flags at the fair.

About 40 people gathered at First United Methodist Church on Wednesday where they discussed the flag and the board’s decision not to ban it.

Those present said the flag is a symbol of racism and hatred. They cited how Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black members of a historic black church in South Carolina in June 15, posed with the flag prior to his killing spree.

Jeanine Donaldson, who heads the Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County, said she has been working with a deputy at the Lorain County Jail who has documented many symbols of white supremacy at the jail both as tattoos and on cell graffiti.

The Confederate flag is one that white supremacists use as a recruitment tool, a very real symbol of hate and intimidation for the black community, Donaldson said.

“One of the key objects that (inmates) have is the Confederate flag,” she said. “It’s on their bodies, it’s on their jail cells.”

The Rev. Stanley Miller of Rust Community Church said he’s concerned for the future of his great-grandson because it’s obvious racism is still alive in the United States. Miller said it’s time for the faith community to step up and take the lead on the issue.

“Of all the things I have been agitated about over the last two weeks is that my great-grandson started school today,” he said. “I am so concerned that 12 years from now he’s going to be dealing with the same issues that we’re talking about today.”

Those present said the flag, as well as Confederate statues, became symbols of white dominance during the Jim Crow era, and such symbols were consistently used by the Ku Klux Klan while terrorizing black communities.

Tony Giardini, an attorney who is also chairman of the Lorain County Democratic Party, said the vendor selling the flag at the fair in previous years admitted his reasons for selling it had nothing to do with history.

“He was selling it to protest big federal government,” Giardini said. “I knew exactly what that meant. What he was saying was he protests things like the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That’s what he was really saying.”

Giardini said when the issue of flag sales came up in 2015, he found himself questioning whether removing the Democratic Party booth from the fairgrounds was the right decision because after it was done, rebel flag sales soared.

Two weeks ago, he said the decision was reaffirmed when the events in Charlottesville, Va., unfolded. Racism isn’t going away, he said, and the Confederate flag is the wrong political statement for the United States.

“This is a day-in and day-out, person-to-person battle that has to be fought all the time,” Giardini said.

The Rev. Paul Wilson, who is originally from Louisiana, said he left the South in 1987 and he thought then he had seen his last Confederate flag, but even in the North, he continued to see it.

Wilson said between the 1870s and 1960s, an estimated 40,000 black men, women and children were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.

The Klan helped set up a system of apartheid after the Civil War that reigned for nearly 100 years, Wilson said, and the terrorist organization burned black homes, churches and businesses.

Wilson, who grew up about five miles from where Klan leader David Duke lived, said even in the 1980s as a teen in Louisiana he saw acts of terror. He once saw a dog killed and a cross burned by the Klan in a black family’s yard who had moved into a white neighborhood, and in the background of the burning cross, the Confederate flag was flying.

“If we know better and don’t speak out, that’s evil in itself,” Wilson said.

Imam Paul Hasan of Interfaith Ministries said the crux of the Confederate flag issue hinges on the injustices of 400 years of slavery in the United States. The system of slavery damaged generations of not only blacks, he said, but also whites.

“We’re talking about psychology,” he said. “It’s the psychology of African people that has been damaged, and the psychology of European people that has been damaged by 400 years of slavery. It’s a bitter pill for us to swallow and talk about, but we’ve got to if we really want real justice in removing the flag internally from the hearts of the people.”

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or jwysochanski@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski.

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