About two dozen protesters, some carrying signs reading “heritage not hate” and “remembrance not racism” and holding Confederate flags, gathered in front of the Anderson County Courthouse Wednesday morning.
The protesters, who are not affiliated with any particular group, were protesting Monday’s removal of the first national flag of the Confederacy, the “Stars and Bars” flag, from the flag pole in front of the courthouse in Palestine.
“I feel like the protest went really well. There was no violence, which I am very grateful for,” protest organizer Morgan Carroll said in a statement to the Herald-Press. “We went there to show our support for the flag and to try and clear up any misunderstandings that it was a racial matter, which it was not.
“I hope that our message got out and that more people will be accepting of the flag, as it is a part of our history. We had a great turnout, and I’m extremely proud of my fellow Texans.”
Representatives of the Sons of Confederate Veterans voluntarily took down the flag around 6 p.m. Monday as the Palestine City Council was holding a special meeting just blocks away to consider a resolution asking Anderson County commissioners to reconsider its vote one week earlier to allow the flag to fly at the courthouse.
The local John H. Reagan Camp No. 2156 Sons of the Confederate Veterans and the Davis-Reagan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy did not participate in Wednesday’s event.
On March 28, the Anderson County commissioners’ court voted, 3-2, to declare April as Confederate History and Heritage Month, with a resolution also calling for the flag to be flown at the courthouse for the entire month.
While protesters talked with several television media outlets from Tyler and Dallas Wednesday, small groups of individuals formed around the courthouse and across the street in protest to the protesters.
Anderson County Commissioner Precinct I Rashad Q. Mims I, who voted against the resolution and has been a vocal opponent to the flag being flown at the courthouse, had a heated discussion with a few of the male protesters, but otherwise the protest was relatively peaceful. Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies were on the scene for crowd control.
“I asked for them to stop,” Mims said as he left the group of protesters. “They are trying to put Anderson County and Palestine on the map as a racist community and we are not. I just want people to stop the confusion over this.”
Mims said he expressed his feelings that putting the flag up would cause racial tensions at the time of the commissioners’ court meeting, but the resolution still passed.
“I’m not a bigot or a racist and I do not believe any member of the commissioners’ court is either. I think we need to let this die and get back to business as usual in Anderson County,” Mims told the Herald-Press Wednesday night.
“Our city’s image and my image in the public eye from the media attention has it all stirred up and making me out to be a bad person who is trying to stir up trouble. It’s not intended that way at all. I represent everyone in my district — African Americans, Caucasians and Hispanics. They are all my constituents.”
Palestine resident Versalean Logan called Wednesday’s event “very emotional” as she watched the protesters wave the Confederate flags.
“My issue is not with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans who wanted to honor and recognize their ancestors. I just do not believe this is the right place to fly it in Anderson County.
“This particular issue is a step back for the community,” she continued, “and we need to go forward.”
Ronnie Blackstock, 62, who was among the protesters, said he had a personal reason to attend Wednesday.
“I came over here from Cherokee County to represent myself and my heritage,” Blackstock said. “My grandfather and his brothers served in the war. My grandfather signed up with the 41st Georgia Infantry in 1862 and stayed in it until it was over.”
Blackstock said six of the brothers went into the war and only five came out alive.
“I came to see if we could get this flag back up — none of this had to do with slavery. It’s not a racist flag,” Blackstock said.