Panel calls for Confederate flag’s removal from site

By Benjamin Rothstein
Posted 6/10/24

LEWES—Georgetown's Marvel Carriage Museum flies a confederate flag, much to the dismay of several community groups, including the NAACP, which spoke out about the display in 2022.  

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Panel calls for Confederate flag’s removal from site


LEWES — A “Speak Out Against Hate” forum brought out calls for the removal of a Confederate flag at the Georgetown museum property.

The flag flies above the Delaware Grays Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 2086 monument on the Marvel Carriage Museum site, which is owned by the Georgetown Historical Society.

On Thursday, the Delaware-based organization Speak Out Against Hate gathered community leaders at the Lewes Library to discuss the flag. Speaking were Georgetown mayor Bill West, attorney Tom Irvine, Sussex County Councilman Mark Schaeffer, and community activist Jane Hovington.

Joseph Lawson moderated the panel.

Mayor West began by discussing how the flag had been put up between 2007 and 2008, and it led to disagreement over whether the town should grant the museum money to operate. After several council debates, the museum was eventually granted $24,000 in 2022.

“People I thought (were) my friends wrote letters into the town council saying if I don’t like it, I need to move out of town,” said Mayor West. “Is this the way America is supposed to be? Is this the way we are taught? We grew up with this hatred?”

The flag’s status as a symbol of hatred was at the center of the argument to remove it.

Mr. Irvine, who attacked the pro-flag argument that it is not a hate symbol, rather a religious symbol. He did this by comparing the cross on the flag to the Nazi swastika—a religious symbol coopted by group that preached hate.

He covered the history of Confederate flag, and how the version flying was brought into the modern era via a response to the series of events in the late 1940s: the desegregation of the military, Jackie Robinson beginning his career in baseball. These events created the pro-segregation Dixiecrat party, who used it as a symbol, he said.

Councilman Schaeffer said the county had also considered giving the museum money.

“I brought it up during a public session and thought it was inappropriate to use tax taxpayers’ money to support that facility when they’re flying that flag,” said Councilman Schaeffer, a Republican. “It wasn’t a very popular stance for me to take politically because of my party affiliation.

“If I get thrown out of office on that issue alone, that would be a very proud day in my life.”

He said people argued to him that the war was about state’s rights—to which he would reply “which state right was it about?”

Ms. Covington spoke about Delaware receiving the reputation of a confederate state, despite not being one.

“Delaware is not a Confederate state — they fly the Confederate flag, but it’s not a Confederate state,” she said. “ So, I’d say that our reputation, the state of Delaware, is being smeared because of the fact that people see the flag and the flag flying there.”

She told anecdotes of the different ways the symbology of the flag has affected her and the African American community.

Pro-flag audience members spoke up during the question-and-answer session.

“Our organization commends your dedicated service toward the public good of all citizens, and is saddened to witness recent outbursts of protest that have resorted to rude, ad hominem references toward Council members, boycott threats, presumptive assignment of motives and intentions of others based on prejudicial, judgmental fanaticism, certitude, sanctimony, and self-righteous impatience,” wrote the organization in a statement prepared for the panel members.

The organization said it views the flag as a religious symbol, and a representation of Delawareans who fought in the war. In the statement, they thanked the historical society for standing strong in keeping the flag flying.

According to the panel members, multiple attempts have been made to get the flag taken down, but to no avail.

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