Sons of Confederate Vets move forward with park, left out of Palestine festival

Sons of Confederate Vets move forward with park, left out of Palestine festival

Palestine's Chamber of Commerce decided last week to bar the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter from having a booth in the annual Dogwood Trails Festival or a presence in the associated parade.

The Chamber's board hasn't said much about its decision, but the group's history likely played into the decision.

In April of 2011 the original Confederate flag flew for five days on top of the courthouse in Palestine. Despite having the county's legal permission, protests against the Sons of Confederate Veterans brought it down.

Gary Williams, the Historian of the John H. Reagan Camp and Doug Smith, the Adjutant/Treasurer, said Tuesday that they were just trying to honor Anderson County's Civil War fighters when that flag was flying two years ago.

"It's those men that came back, did their duty, came back and brought this town into the twentieth century and out of reconstruction," Williams said.

"In the south it didn't matter your race,' Smith said. "It mattered just how much fight you had in you."

In 2012 the Sons of Confederate Veterans began turning donated land at the corner of Oak and Jackson streets into a park--this time with the city's permission. It will eventually feature the same flag plus four others. It will also include individual memorials.

"I know of between five and ten black Confederates who will be honored with brick pavers," Smith said.

"You can celebrate the history without flying the flag," Palestine NAACP President Kenneth Davidson said. "You know, to me it's all about the flag."

Davidson said he believes the Palestine Chamber of Commerce decided to shut the Sons of Confederate Veterans out of this year's Dogwood Trails Festival because flying the flag causes problems.

"As a black individual, we have a lot of family members who were hung up under that flag," Davidson said. "It doesn't mean the same thing to us as it means to [the Sons of Confederate Veterans]."

The chamber released the following statement:

"The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce is FOR building a stronger community. Our volunteers spend countless hours doing so. It is not in the community's best interest to allow politically divisive groups to participate in the Dogwood Trails parade or to be a vendor at the Festival."

"So what we said is 'If you don't want us to have a booth down there, we'll simply come down here to our own plaza and set up a booth here [at the park],'" Smith said.

"Now you finally see what we've been saying," Davidson said. "If you see and if you feel discriminated against, look at the flag situation. That's what we've been saying about this flag."

The park will not be finished by the time the Sons of Confederate Veterans host people during the Dogwood Trails Festival March 15-17.

The park's grand opening will be April 13. Smith and Williams said it is open to everyone.


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