There was a “giant hush” in the crowd during the city of Delaware’s Fourth of July parade when a truck carrying the Confederate flag passed through the downtown, according to City Council member Chris Jones.
“I’ve been in the parade many times,” he said at Monday night’s council meeting at the National Guard building on Houk Road.
Jones said he was “personally offended” by the display. City officials said they will follow up with the Delaware County Farm Bureau, that manages the parade, to determine why and how the truck with the flag was allowed.
“That day, I felt a sense of disservice,” said Tamika Vinson, who’s been a resident in Delaware for eight years.
She told council members that it was a “poor choice” for its inclusion in light of the recent killings of two black men by police, respectively in Minneapolis and Baton Rogue, La., and the slaying of five police officers in Dallas.
She said she wanted the city to at least denounce it as a “symbol of hate” and “treason from a historical standpoint.”
A resident from the Chatham Glen subdivision, who is white and attended the meeting to talk about the city’s transportation plan, decided to comment on the matter. He said the flag is not a symbol of treason as the federal government recognizes Confederate soldiers as U.S. veterans — who were fighting for their cause.
But Mark Butler, an African-American resident of Delaware for 13 years, said the soldiers fighting for the Union had a greater cause, which was freedom.
He handed council members copies of a photo he shot of the Confederate flag in the parade.
“I almost tripped on my shoes to get a photo,” Butler said.
He added that the nation has a come a long way from the Civil War era, but it has a long way to go for improvement in race relations.
Butler expressed his grievances to the Delaware County Commission at its regular meeting Monday morning.
Steve Berk, organization director for the county’s Farm Bureau, said it did not see the Confederate flag in the lineup at the at the parade’s registration table, located on the fairgrounds. Berk said he didn’t the see the flag from his place in the parade.
“DCFB is disappointed that someone made that decision to fly that [flag] at the Fourth of July parade,” he said.
He added that the bureau never had problems such as this one in previous years.
The bureau will revise its protocol to ensure that floats, vehicles and other entries for the parade are aligned with the spirit of the holiday, which is about celebrating America’s independence, and is representative of the people in Delaware County, Berk said.
He added that the bureau has not identified the entry that had the Confederate flag.
There are about 4.5 percent black or African-Americans living in the city of Delaware, below the national average of 12.6 percent, according to an April 2010 estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Tom Wolber, who attended the meeting, said in an email that all manifestations of the Confederate flag are deeply divisive and therefore inappropriate to use in the 21st century.
“What this country needs is symbols of hope and unity, not of division and segregation,” he said. “… Fourth-of-July parades are not appropriate venues for hate speech, which is what displaying the Confederate flag has become.”
Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said the city doesn’t finance the actual parade and agrees that the Confederate flag should not have been included.
“The Farm Bureau should have only one flag, the American flag in the parade,” she said.
Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.