MELBOURNE, Fla. – The Melbourne City Council decided on Tuesday not to change its policy regarding the city's sponsorship of parades and events that display Confederate flags, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.
Holding a Confederate battle flag on a wooden stick aloft in her right hand, Dawn Boyd addressed the Melbourne City Council wearing a gray T-shirt depicting the flag alongside the slogan "It's Better to Die on Your Feet Than to Live on Your Knees."
"That man that killed those people up there in South Carolina, we do not control the racism that people put on this flag. But this flag does not stand for racism. Not the flag itself," Boyd said Tuesday, eliciting applause from a capacity City Hall crowd.
"If we're going to pull this flag, then we need to pull the PuertoRican flag. We need to pull the American flag. We need to pull every state flag that's out there. Because every one of them fought in a war against something. And somebody died for every flag that hangs in this country — and every other country," said Boyd, a Melbourne resident.
Earlier this month, Councilwoman Teresa Lopez took offense when two groups — Confederate Sons Association of Florida Indian River Camp 47 and Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp J.J. Dickison Camp 1387 — waved the flags during the city's annual Fourth of July parade.
Since 2010, the Melbourne City Council has co-sponsored the Fourth of July parade by providing in-kind police and traffic engineering services. Those waived costs for this year's parade totaled $1,572.
Lopez called for an ordinance prohibiting Confederate flag-displaying sponsorships. She also wanted to prohibit city employees — including council members — from participating in Confederate flag-bearing events. Traditionally, council members ride aboard a red antique fire engine during the Fourth of July parade.
Her motion died for lack of a second, setting off loud applause from a large flag-waving contingent.
Attendees carried Confederate flags and wore battle-flag shirts, baseball caps, vests and even Superman-style capes. The 2
A native of Puerto Rico, Lopez is past president of the Florida PuertoRican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She said the Confederate battle flag is not a symbol of heritage — rather, it insults some residents, tourists and city employees.
"This same Confederate flag has been used by other groups, for instance the KKK, in order to continue this culture of hate from one generation to another generation against people of color, including blacks, Hispanics and Jews," Lopez said.
Mayor Kathy Meehan said she feared that City Council was "going down a slippery slope," and Americans have freedom of speech and the right to fly the flag.
Thirty-four people addressed City Council. Some flag supporters noted that their ancestors were killed during the Civil War, while some opponents labeled the flag the emblem of the KKK.
Clara Smith of Melbourne supported Lopez's ordinance on behalf of the South Brevard County branch of the NAACP. She pointed out that New Shiloh Christian Church, a predominantly black church, has been vandalized three times in six months. During the last instance, vandals scrawled "SS Charleston 2" on the side of a pickup truck.
"It is a widely recognized emblem of racism and hatred that separated our nation for many years, even decades," Smith said of the flag.
Mitch Morgan, lieutenant commander of the Confederate Sons Association of Florida Indian River Camp 47, disagreed. Three of his great-grandfathers fought in the Civil War. He said one died on a North Florida battlefield at age 42, and they were fighting to protect their families and homes from destruction.
"We are not racists. We're not burning any churches, I guarantee you. We're not putting logos on any vehicles. We're not violent people," Morgan said.
Councilwoman Molly Tasker moved to direct city attorneys to research the city's parade-sponsorship ordinance. She said she favored ending sponsorship of such events.