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Democrats protest Confederate flag

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WELLINGTON — The Lorain County Democratic Party shut down its booth at the Lorain County Fair on Thursday to protest the Fair Board’s decision to allow the sale and display of the Confederate flag at the fairgrounds.

The move came a day after county Commissioner Matt Lundy, a Democrat, called on the Fair Board to ban the Confederate flag, which he called a symbol of hatred and division.

County Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini said he drove to the fairgrounds Thursday morning after reading about the controversy in The Chronicle-Telegram and stripped the party’s booth of banners and party literature. He said he left behind the tables, a chair and signs for individual candidates.

Giardini said he finds the Confederate flag offensive because of its meaning as both a symbol of revolt against the United States and because the South was fighting to maintain slavery during the Civil War.

“I speak for our party and our party, as long as I am chairman, is not going to support an event or organization that allows that flag to be displayed or sold,” he said.

Fair Board President Kim Meyers said he wasn’t aware that Giardini had shut down the Democratic Party booth.

“They’re entitled to their opinion and they’re entitled to do that,” he said, although he added he was “disappointed” by the decision.

Meyers said the feedback he’s received from fairgoers since the controversy broke has been supportive of the decision not to ban the flag.

The comments “have all been in support of the Fair Board and they believe Mr. Lundy is attempting to try to further his political career,” Meyers said.

Hot-button issue

The Confederate flag has been at the heart of a national debate since Dylann Roof allegedly opened fire in a Charleston, S.C., church in June in a racially motivated attack. South Carolina has removed the Confederate flag from the grounds of its statehouse and the Ohio State Fair banned the flag this year.

County Commissioner Ted Kalo, a Democrat, said he would have favored closing down the county’s booth at the fair as well over the flag issue, but deferred to Lundy, who wants to give the Fair Board a chance to revisit the issue at its September meeting.

“If the state of South Carolina took the flag down off their government property, it shouldn’t be on ours,” Kalo said, adding that he planned to remove signs he had at the fair because of the controversy.

Lundy said he understood the Fair Board’s decision to put off an examination of his complaint until after the fair wraps up at the end of the week.

“The fair thing to do is give the board the opportunity to review it and make a decision,” he said.

Meyers has said the Fair Board did look at the issue in the weeks leading up to the fair opening, but because of legal concerns, including whether the flag falls under protected speech, decided to delay taking any action this year. He also plans to attend a commissioners’ meeting and discuss the issue with Lundy, who he said is the only complaint he’s heard about the flag.

Russell Bissett, a West Virginia vendor selling the flag in a tent at the fair, has said the Confederate flag has been unfairly maligned and had nothing to do with slavery. He said the Civil War was more about fighting federal overreach.

Giardini disagreed. He said there is no doubt that the root cause of the Civil War was slavery.

“How anybody can see the Confederate flag as some symbol of opposition to a large federal government is absolutely beyond me,” he said.

Lorain County Republican Party Chairwoman Helen Hurst said she had no plans to close down her party’s booth at the fair. She said she couldn’t make a decision like that without consulting with her fellow Republican leaders.

“The Fair Board has made the rule and we will abide by it,” she said.

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