January 3, 1997 in Nation/World

State Yanks Confederate Flag Plates

Washington Post
 

Maryland officials said Thursday they are withdrawing the license plates they have issued for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, following complaints the Confederate battle flag on the special plates is an offensive symbol of racism and America’s slave-owning past.

“It became obvious to us in the last week, as a result of the large number of complaints … that the logo is offensive to a large segment of the population,” said Ronald L. Freeland, administrator of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

Freeland, who is African-American, said neither the flag symbol nor the Confederate veterans group offend him personally. But after complaints about the plates began to surface last week, the issue drew protests from the head of the national NAACP and local African-American legislators, generated hours of debate on talk radio and landed the head of the Maryland legislative black caucus on “The Today Show.”

“To some people … (the Confederate flag) represents racism, bigotry and in some peoples’ minds a terrorist group,” said Freeland. He said he was not implying that the Confederate veterans group is racist, terrorist or in any way offensive.

A spokesman for the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, however, called the state’s decision “a travesty,” and said it does unfairly imply that the organization is racist.

“It’s unfortunate in this day and age that anybody can raise their head and say this symbol or that symbol is offensive to them. Where does it end?” said Patrick J. Griffin III, lieutenant commander of the historical group.

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