CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — The Confederate flag is no longer welcome in Oregon’s historic cemeteries, after a unanimous vote by a state commission.
Members of Oregon’s Commission on Historic Cemeteries (OCHC) voted Friday to adopt a position paper recommending Confederate flags not be allowed in historic cemeteries at any time, including flying the flag on poles or with small flags placed on individual graves.
“We do not support allowing flags in historic cemeteries that promote systemic racism, fear, and oppression of anyone,” the position paper reads in part. “It is extremely important that historic cemeteries are maintained as places where the visitors feel safe and welcome.”
The vote is mostly a symbolic gesture; as chairperson Bev Power noted in Friday’s meeting, the committee can’t punish cemeteries that don’t abide by the recommendation.
“It’s not law, you’re not going to be fined, you’re not going to be denied any grant applications or anything based on whether or not you agree and follow the position we take or not,” Power said.
The discussion began in July, at a time when many cities, counties and states were banning the Confederate flag at public sites in response to weeks of protests and racial unrest after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in police custody in Minneapolis.
Unlike some other states, Oregon does not have cemeteries specific to the Confederacy, according to the OCHC. But the Portland Tribune reports there are about 60 Confederate army veterans buried in more than two dozen Oregon historic cemeteries.
If families want to decorate a Confederate soldier’s grave, particularly during Memorial Day, the OCHC says they should instead choose to use the United States flag or flowers.
More than 1,500 historic cemeteries are registered with the state of Oregon. In order to be considered historic, they must have at least one burial of a person who died before Feb. 14, 1909 – 50 years after Oregon became a state.