African restaurant owners refuse to take down Confederate flag
A group of African-American restaurant owners in southern Alabama say they won’t take down the Confederate flag on their property because it symbolizes hate and racial discrimination.
The owners of several restaurants in the city of Birmingham say they’ve been told to remove the flag, which is flown at the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Bull Run, or else they could face fines of up to $5,000.
The restaurant owners say the flag has become a rallying point for racists in the community, and they want it removed.
They say removing the flag will send a message to the Southern Baptist Convention to “stop promoting racism and hate and bigotry and to focus on the message of love and peace and justice for all people.”
Southern Baptist Convention spokeswoman Catherine Meade said the organization will not remove the Confederate battle flag from the flagpole at its annual meeting in Atlanta this week.
But she said the Southern Baptists are not endorsing any particular policy on the flag.
“The Southern Baptist General Assembly does not endorse any particular flag.
We are not going to support or condone any particular political stance or ideology,” Meade told reporters in Atlanta on Wednesday.
The flag is part of a long-standing Southern tradition that dates to the Civil Rights era.
Southern Baptist leaders say they have been working with local businesses and organizations to help them remove the symbol.
They have also worked with the city’s city attorney to try to get the flag removed.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says the symbol is a “violent and hate-filled symbol of racism and discrimination that is still being used today to intimidate African-Americans.”
The SPLC said in a statement Wednesday that the Southern Poverty National Organization, which monitors hate groups, has identified the flag as a “hate symbol” and has a “long history of promoting hate and racism.”
The SPLC also says it has collected over a dozen complaints against the group since the Civil World’s Day celebration last week.
In the days after the celebration, the SPLC and the Birmingham NAACP issued statements calling for the Confederate emblem to be removed from the statehouse grounds.
The Alabama State Capitol in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017.
The Southern Poverty Group and the Alabama Southern Baptist Conference have both been critical of the flag’s presence at the state capitol.
A spokeswoman for the Alabama State House of Representatives said Wednesday that a group of business owners in Birmingham have contacted the state House about the Confederate Flag and the city will meet with them in the coming days.
“This is not about a political statement,” said Julia Deering, spokeswoman for Rep. John Jenkins, R-Tuscaloosa, who chairs the House GOP caucus.
“This is about businesses who have an interest in doing business with the state of Alabama.”
Jenkins said the flag is an affront to Alabama’s heritage.
“It’s an insult to our heritage and the history of our state,” he said.
He said he wants to know what the state’s representatives think.
“I think it’s important that they know that they are not part of any kind of conspiracy or conspiracy theories that are being pushed,” Jenkins said.