WELLINGTON — While thousands flocked to the Lorain County Fair for its last day Sunday, a small group gathered in Wellington Square to lay a Confederate flag to rest.
Clergy members, county residents, and community and organizational leaders gathered with the Fair-minded Coalition of Lorain County under the gazebo to hold a funeral for the controversial flag.
Jeanine Donaldson, executive director of the Elyria and Lorain YWCAs and a member of the Fair-minded Coalition, organized the event. YWCA Associate Program Director Caroline Meister gave the flag’s eulogy, stating its history and death after the American Civil War. She then spoke of its revival as a symbol of racism for white supremacists and of Southern pride for “well-meaning people who are ignorant of the flag’s true meaning.”
The flag, Meister said, must have someone to truly mourn its loss since the Confederate States of America was defeated long ago.
“Today, on the 26th day of August, we commit this flag to history to be a historical record of how America and her people rose up against evil and injustice,” she said.
The idea for a flag funeral arose from a series of conflicts related to the decision by the fair board to continue allowing sales of the Confederate flag at the fair.
Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy brought up the issue of Confederate flag sales at the fair in 2015, when the display of the Confederate flag became a national issue.
The Fair-minded Coalition of Lorain County was established in 2016 by the Elyria and Lorain YWCAs with the aim of stopping the sale of Confederate flags at the Lorain County Fair, which it says is “America’s most enduring symbol of hate.”
The coalition began pressing the fair board to ban sales of the flag at the fair, and this year the coalition purchased three billboards protesting the sales on state Routes 58, 57 and 18, with funding through the Lorain YWCA.
Earlier this month, a Confederate flag was draped over the billboard on Route 57. Lorain Councilman Angel Arroyo, D-6th Ward, and others retrieved the flag and donated it for the funeral Sunday, according to a news release from the Fair-minded Coalition.
During the ceremony, several people gave statements about the flag and the controversy surrounding it.
Arroyo said he hopes to have dialogue with people who disagree about banning sales of the flag at the fair. He also expressed a desire to speak with the fair board in the future.
“We’re calling out the fair board and we’re asking them so we can come out and sit down and have a conversation,” he said. “See, it’s OK to not get along, it’s OK to not understand where we’re coming from, but it’s better for us to come down and sit down and that we don’t need that damn flag anymore.”
Former Oberlin Police Chief Robert Jones also spoke, telling the crowd he was originally from the South. As a black man who grew up in one of the most turbulent times in the South, he said the Confederate flag holds a terrible meaning of fear and hatred.
“Coming up from the South, that Confederate flag was hate; you didn’t cross the line and my grandmother would tell us stories about hate,” he said.
Jones also spoke about his patriotism and U.S. Army service.
“When I was in the service, I fought not for that flag,” he said gesturing toward the stars and bars banner on the table, “but for old glory.”
Sunday’s event almost was derailed. Village Mayor Hans Schneider said Donaldson contacted the village Friday, asking to have “an organizational meeting of about 10 people who wanted to use the gazebo.” When Schneider read an article Saturday, he learned it would be for the Confederate flag funeral.
After a longer discussion, Donaldson filled out another form with Schneider, who spoke with Village Manager Steve Dupee and Police Chief Tim Barfield. Schneider allowed the event to happen, but wanted to reiterate the village itself shouldn’t be the center for the debate of racism in the county.
“We’re not a racist community. We are a community that’s fair, open-minded and a strong believer in free speech,” he said.
After the event, Donaldson said the flag will be donated to the Spirit of ’76 Museum in Wellington or a local historical society in the area. The fair board declined to comment on the event.
- Another Lorain County Fair wraps up
- Hard work pays off at Lorain County Fair auction
- Woman protests YWCA, campaign against Confederate flag sales at fair
- Fair-minded Coalition to hold decommissioning service for Confederate flag
- Group vows to not give up fight until Lorain County Fair changes Confederate flag policy
- Three billboards in Lorain County, Ohio, target Confederate flag sales at the county fair