Confederate flag flies again in Marion County

Last Updated: Thursday, July 09, 2015, 2:13 PM

Marion County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to put the Confederate flag back up at the county's government complex.

The flag was removed Thursday and temporarily replaced with a flag with the seal of Marion County.

County officials said the decision to remove the flag last week was in response to growing controversy surrounding the flag following the shooting deaths of nine black men and women at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. The suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, had posed with a Confederate flag in photos posted on a website that displayed a racist manifesto attributed to him.

After the deadly shootings, Marion County's interim county administrator, Bill Kauffman, consulted with County Commission Chairman Stan McClain and decided to remove the Confederate flag, which has flown outside the county's government complex for more than two decades.

Within minutes of Tuesday morning's vote, the Civil War-era flag was seen flying once again outside the government complex as one of the five national flags which have flown over Florida since European explorers first landed on its shores more than 500 years ago. The other four are Spanish, French, British and American flags.

A flag with the seal of Marion County (far right) flies in place of the Confederate flag at the Marion County government complex Thursday, July 2, 2015. (PHOTO/Dave D'Marko, Staff)

The Confederate flag was returned Tuesday, July 7, 2015. (PHOTO/Dave D'Marko, Staff)

Reaction was mixed last week when Marion County replaced the Confederate flag.

"We live in America, and last time I checked it was a democracy. So, here in Marion County, which has what 300,000 people, how can one man decide to take it off a flagpole?" pondered David Stone, with the Florida Southern Pride Ride.

"I think it should be removed," said Monaco Benjamin. "What value does it have to us now? That was years ago, and so many things have changed."

Reaction by Marion County residents who spoke with us Tuesday was overwhelmingly against the decision to remove the flag in the first place.

"You've made a serious mistake," said Judy Delk. "You are trying to unwrite or rewrite history."

"He should be ashamed of himself, because he has caused a needless divide in this county that we did not have," said Wayne Radley, referring to the county administrator.

"The fact remains it is part of our common and shared history," said John Horrigh as he watched the flag being raised back up with the others. "History is not always pretty, but it remains as our history. It's back where it should be."

Commissioner McClain said he plans to write a letter to Marion County's Historical Society, asking for their assistance with markers to explain each flag's historical significance.

"It's a passionate issue on two sides," said McClain. "What we are trying to do is interpret the historical relevance of this display we have. It's either take the whole thing down, or try to use it as a historical tool from a historical perspective."

The five flags currently fly over Marion County's fallen officers memorial, something the commissioners agreed doesn't make sense. So, the county may move all five flags somewhere else on the government complex where it will be easier for people to learn about the history of each one.