The Confederate battle flag — a symbol of Southern pride to some and hate to others — will not be displayed after all at this year’s Veterans Day parade in Homestead.
The Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee, which organizes the popular event, reversed Wednesday an earlier announcement that the controversial flag could be flown.
In an e-mail sent to the media, committee chairman Jeffrey Wander said all the members within the Military Affairs Committee had been polled via e-mail and a majority voted to prohibit the flag.
“Due to the importance of this issue and the future of the largest Veterans Day Parade in South Florida, I felt that the motion should be presented to the entire membership of the MAC,” Wander wrote.
On Sept. 3, a smaller group within the military affairs committee had taken a vote on whether to prohibit the display of the flag and that vote had ended in a stalemate, Wander wrote. The committee then decided to allow the flag into the parade.
On Wednesday, the new ban confused local members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group that marched with the rebel flag at last year’s parade for the first time.
Greg Kalof, commander of the Miami camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he wasn’t even sure this vote would be the final one.
“I can even envision that there won’t be a parade after all of the attempts by the NAACP to threaten the sponsors of the parade into submission,” Kalof said in an e-mail. “It’s a sad state of affairs when a veterans group, like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, are told that they cannot carry the one flag that represents their group, their ancestors and their heritage.”
However, opponents of the battle flag cheered after hearing the news.
“Obviously, I am pleased to see that the wider membership of the MAC had voted the way one had hoped it would vote,” said Brad Brown, political action chair of the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP.
Brown said he would contact the U.S. Department of Justice, which had been mediating the dispute, to set up a meeting with the parade organizers and determine how to move forward.
But without any formal communication from the military affairs committee, Brown also expressed some weariness. “As long as this is an open issue, everything is on the table,” he said, referring to possible protests at the parade as well as a boycott of chamber businesses.
Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace, who had threatened to skip this year’s parade, said the military affairs committee did the right thing.
“I think the decision to prohibit the flag reflects that the organization cares about unity in this community,” he said. “I look forward to celebrating with them the contributions of our veterans.”
For Mary Finlan, executive director of the Homestead/Florida City Chamber, the policy to ban the Confederate battle flag has ended a divisive controversy. In May, the chamber’s executive board had recommended that the military affairs committee ban the rebel flag.
“If there is a segment of the population that feels the flag is inflammatory and insulting to them, it needs to be removed,” Finlan said. “We all have really pressing things to do and other issues to take care of.”