A noticeable display of the Confederate flag at the city of Delaware’s Fourth of July parade has sparked strong discussions about its meaning among residents.
But Melody Wells, whose 17-year-old son owns and drove the truck with the flag from the Civil War era, said it was completely harmless. Wells said she stood in the back of the truck with friends and family waving to people during the parade.
“Nobody said anything except one gentlemen,” she said. “I was surprised it was even brought up.”
The family received permission from parade officials when they checked in at the registration table, according to Wells.
“I asked because he is a minor,” she said, adding that officials not only gave their OK but asked them to not throw candy out to the parade goers.
Other residents also noticed the flag in the parade’s lineup from the start.
“We saw them at the the fairground lining up with the rest of us,” said Amy Myers McCreight. “Nobody said boo to them and it was waving proudly at the start of the parade.”
McCreight was among the number of social media users that commented on the original story, posted by The Gazette on its Facebook page, that has been shared 50 times with more than 70 comments as of Wednesday afternoon. Other commenters included Silver Stimmel, who defended her family’s use of the Confederate flag.
“My 17-year-old nephew was driving the truck along with my 12-year-old son … and the inappropriate comments that were being screamed from the man with the baby we’re (sic) very rude and inconsiderate,” she said. “I know everyone has a right to state their opinions on the flag but, like I said, our intentions were not to offend anyone they were to represent are (sic) country and heritage.”
Stimmel agreed with Delaware resident Karen McCulloch, who said the Confederate flag “has symbolized division since its creation. … The Fourth of July is a celebration of our whole United States.”
“… There are 364 days in the year for discussion about what divides us,” McCulloch said. “The Fourth is about what unites us as Americans, and thus the Confederate flag should be saved for another day.”
“I agree with that to fullest and again if we offended anyone we are deeply sorry it wasn’t our intentions,” Stimmel said.
Wells said she is aware of the recent controversies associated with the Confederate flag. Debate about the flag came into the national spotlight after the June 2015 killings of nine parishioners at Charleston’s Emmanuel AME Church by a 22-year-old white male, whose pictures of him posing with the flag have circulated online. The slayings led South Carolina’s government to remove the Confederate flag from its Capitol grounds after a 54-year run.
But Wells said her son waved the flag to support historical and religious freedoms and veterans.
“To him it’s nothing to do with racism at all,” she said. “It’s nothing to do with prejudice or hate at all.”
Her son also waved the flag during a charity event for veterans last week, she added.
“They’re highly supportive of veterans,” Wells said. “They’re just a group of country kids who want to support our troops.”
She declined to say whether waving the flag during a July 4 parade was appropriate, but said her son also flew the American flag and that other entries in the parade were carrying the Confederate flag — though smaller in comparison.
The Delaware County Farm Bureau, which manages the parade, is disappointed that the flag was flown regardless of what decisions were made that day, according to its organization director, Steve Berk.
“I wasn’t there [when the family asked permission] so I can’t speak to that,” he said, adding that he expected a majority of those who attended the parade did not appreciate it and the bureau will make adjustments so that it doesn’t happen again.
“We want to make the corrections, moving forward,” Berk said.
Members of Delaware’s black or African-American community spoke out against the display at a Delaware City Council meeting Monday night.
“That day, I felt a sense of disservice,” said Tamika Vinson, who’s been a Delaware resident for eight years.
Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said — in a letter to the editor to run in Friday’s Gazette — that numerous residents have expressed shock and dismay that the parade had the Confederate flag.
“While I vehemently object to the use of the Confederate flag, the parade is organized by a private group, not the city. We provide no funding for the event and play no role in reviewing parade participants,” she said. “With that said, the city, through staff, has made its displeasure over the inclusion of the Confederate flag in the parade known to the organizers. … It is our hope that next year, the organizers of the parade will take steps to ensure that the parade can be enjoyed by everyone.”
Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.