Virginia Moves to Erase Confederate Flag from License Plates
mhasken19 minutes ago#confederate flag
DANVILLE, Va. — A judge in the Virginia city that was the final refuge for the Confederacy was set to hear arguments Friday over the state’s bid to erase the Confederate battle flag from license plates.
The hearing in U.S. District Court in Danville comes as this mill city of 43,000 grapples with the enduring symbols of the Confederacy, a debate sparked across the South by the mass killings of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June. The suspect in the shootings had been photographed posing with a Confederate battle flag.
U.S. District Judge Jackson L. Kiser will consider a request by the Virginia attorney general’s office to set aside a 2001 injunction that allowed the image of the Confederate flag on vanity plates honoring the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The request will be opposed by attorneys representing the Virginia and national divisions of the Southern heritage group.
Kiser was not expected to immediately rule from the bench.
The flag is on approximately 1,600 Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates.
In June, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he would move to have the plates phased out, calling the image of the flag “unnecessarily divisive and hurtful.” He also cited a Supreme Court ruling that Texas could bar the Confederate flag from its license plates.
In 1999, the General Assembly authorized the Sons of Confederate Veterans plates but prohibited any logo from the design. The group sued and a federal judge sided with the SCV, and the decision was upheld by a federal appeals court.
The arguments Friday are likely to focus on the Supreme Court decision rather than philosophical or political views swirling around the rebel flag.
The state will argue that the flag on state-issued plates constitute government speech, while the Sons of Confederate Veterans contend it is protected private speech.
Bragdon Bowling is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and was commander of the Virginia division when it went to court to get the flag on the plate. He said McAuliffe’s action to banish the flag was a “knee-jerk” reaction.
“What the governor has done is going to greatly increase the membership of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” Bowling said Thursday. “That’s what happens when you try to suppress a powerful symbol.”
The group insists the flag is a symbol of Southern heritage, not hate.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles said it has received 34 requests for the SCV plate between June 24 and July 23. The plates are not being issued while the challenge is before a judge.
The hearing comes amid weeks of discord in Danville over the flying of a Confederate flag on the lawn of the mansion where Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet encamped in April 1865 until Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
The Sutherlin Mansion is now home to an arts and history museum.
The Danville Register and Bee has reported that the City Council will banish all flags from city property other than the U.S., Virginia and Danville flag.
The debate over the flag’s removal has been fiery, and heritage groups have vowed to fight any such move.
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