County commissioners in Walton County voted Tuesday against removing a Confederate flag that has flown outside its courthouse since the Civil Rights era.
Walton County commissioners voted 3-2 to leave the flag despite please from several residents who said it had hurtful racial undertones. The move comes as cities around the country are reconsidering policies, monuments and landmarks with racist roots in the wake up racial protests related to the death of George Floyd.
Walton officials said they would not consider removing the city’s confederate memorial. Commission Chairman Bill Chapman said it was one of the oldest in the nation honoring “90-some dead people who died during the Civil War.”
Commissioners voted in 2018 to allow county residents to decide whether the flag should remain flying. The Panama City News Herald reported that a 65% majority cast ballots in a non-binding referendum to keep it.
The Rev. Tyrone Broddus told commissioners Tuesday that the confederate Flag flying in front of a public courthouse sends a clear message to African Americans.
“We come to the courthouse looking for justice and when we see the confederate flag or the stars and bars we realize we are still not receiving the justice we are guaranteed,” he said.
Walton County, on the Panhandle Gulf coast between Panama City and Pensacola, has a population of about 74,000 that is 90% white, according to Census data from 2019.
The decision by the County Commission comes amid renewed efforts throughout the South to remove the flag and other symbols of the confederacy from public places. They’ve been targeted as part of the response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than seven minutes.
On Tuesday, Walmart said it will stop displaying the Mississippi state flag while the state debates whether to change a design that includes the confederate battle emblem. And the Mississippi Baptist Convention said lawmakers have a moral obligation to remove the emblem from the state flag because many people are “hurt and shamed” by it.
Republished with permission from the Associated Press.