A Confederate battle flag was raised over Interstate 95 in Chesterfield, Va., on Saturday, despite the opposition of some who insist the banner is a symbol of slavery and bigotry.
The Virginia Flaggers, a heritage group, celebrated the raising of the 15-by-15-foot flag from the Army of Northern Virginia, saying the ceremony was not intended to offend anyone, but to honor the South’s dead in the Civil War, according to the Washington Post.
“The reason why we’re here is to honor the soldier,” James Thompson told the Post. “We don’t see it as a slavery issue.”
Thompson, 50, a Civil War re-enactor wearing a slouch hat and a rough wool uniform, said his ancestors fought for the South.
The Confederate flag, which still evokes strong emotions in the South, is on privately owned land that was donated so the flag could be flown near I-95, where it can be viewed by tens of thousands of people daily, the Post reported.
“You can’t stop them from raising their flag, but you can drown it out with better speech: an American flag,” Richmond, Va., attorney Brian Cannon told Fox News.
Cannon, who helped spearhead a protest against the decision to fly the flag, added that the city already has many memorials to the Confederate cause, including statues honoring Southern military leaders Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
The opponents have gathered nearly 24,000 signatures on an online petition opposing the flag being displayed.
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors has said there is little it can do about the flag because it is located on private property, Fox News said.
Despite the controversy, this is not a first-time occurrence. A Confederate flag has flown near Tampa, Fla., visible by motorists on Interstates 4 and 75, since 2008. The site is home to the Confederate Veterans Memorial, established by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.