Historic Oregon cemeteries could ban Confederate flag

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Commission discussion in mid-July focuses on widespread call to reject 'flag of the enemy'

Oregon’s Historic Cemeteries Commission is considering a position paper opposing displays of the Confederate Flag (PMG photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The Confederate flag may no longer be welcome in Oregon’s historic cemeteries under a proposal to be considered in mid-July.

Members of Oregon’s Commission on Historic Cemeteries will discuss during their Thursday, July 16, online meeting a position paper that urges cemetery groups to avoid displaying Confederate flags on graves in the state’s nearly 1,400 historic cemeteries. Any commission decision on the controversial flag is only advisory. It cannot require cemetery organizations to prevent the Confederate flag from being displayed.

Commission members meet by phone from 1 to 4 p.m. The Confederate flag position paper will be discussed at about 1:30 p.m. The discussion includes a presentation by Otis W. Pickett, an assistant history professor at Mississippi College.

The discussion comes at a time when cities, counties and states are 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. NASCAR banned the flag from its events. Lawmakers in Mississippi also voted in late June to remove the Confederate colors as part of the state flag.

Confederate veterans in Oregon cemeteries

In a draft, two-page position paper, commission staff took aim at cemeteries’ Memorial Day celebrations, saying the Confederate flag should not be displayed on graves or flown on flagpoles. “The flag of the United States of America is flown in many cemeteries and is an important component of the Memorial Day celebrations,” according to the position paper. “In contrast, the Confederate flag is a symbol of treason, suppression, racism and dishonor to the United States of America. It is the flag of the enemy of the United States of America, and a symbol that makes many people feel unwelcome, unsafe and it directly conflicts with the original intent behind Memorial Day celebrations.”

Commission members could urge cemetery groups to limit or ban displays of small Confederate flags on some graves.

There are about 60 Confederate army veterans buried in more than two dozen Oregon historic cemeteries.

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