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Three billboards in Lorain County, Ohio, target Confederate flag sales at the county fair

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    The Fair-minded Coalition of Lorain County has put up three billboards objecting to the sale of Confederate flags at the fair. This one is shown Friday on state Route 58 in New Russia Township.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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WELLINGTON — The Fair-minded Coalition of Lorain County is doing everything in its power to ban the sale of the Confederate flag at the Lorain County Fair.

Hoping actions speak louder than words, this year the organization, with funding from the Lorain YWCA, has posted three billboards throughout the county. One is on state Route 58, south of Russia Road, while the others can be seen from state Routes 57 and 18.

According to executive director of the Elyria and Lorain YWCAs Jeanine Donaldson the total cost for the three billboards was $600.

Each billboard has the same phrase: “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Keep Your Pledge! SAY NO to the Confederate Flag at the Lorain County Fair” with an image of the American flag waving on the left side.

The design of the billboard was spearheaded by Fair-minded Coalition member Sam Battle, Donaldson said.

“We hope (the billboards) bring awareness to this issue,” Donaldson said. “Once the Ohio State Fair banned the sale of the flags in 2015, we thought other counties would do likewise. It seemed like a no-brainer.”

In August 2015, the fair board was criticized by Lorain County Democrats for allowing the emblem of the Confederacy to be sold at the fair.

County Commissioner Matt Lundy, a Democrat, called on the fair board to ban the sale of the Confederate flag in 2015 calling it, at the time, “a symbol of hatred and division.”

Three years later, he still believes the flag should not be sold or displayed at the fair.

“Citizens in our county continue to speak out against this divisive symbol that is embraced by hate groups,” Lundy said Friday night. “I support their concern. The Ohio State Fair banned the sale of the Confederate flag calling it an ‘offensive symbol.’ These citizens believe our county fair should follow the state’s lead. I agree. We need unity in this country, not division and hate.”

However, Lorain County Fair president Ron Pickworth believes people should have the right to buy the Confederate flag if they wish; and having it sold at the county fair is allowed.

“Every organization can make their own decision,” he said. “It’s part of freedom of speech to let it continue to be sold.”

Pickworth said the flag vendor plans on returning to the fair this year.

“I am disappointed that this is continuing, and we are not changing our standard,” Pickworth said. “The vendor will be returning with the flag this year.”

Donaldson wishes the fair board would reconsider.

“They cannot claim ‘freedom of speech’ because many retailers have banned the sale without repercussions, legal or otherwise,” Donaldson said, noting the Fair-minded Coalition was formed in 2016 under the YWCA’s social justice umbrella which addresses the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

The Fair-Minded Coalition will have a news conference 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in Ely Square to announce its activities for fair week.

Contact Melissa Linebrink at 440-329-7243 or mlinebrink@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @MLinebrinkCT.


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