Original story at amarillo.com, here.
The Confederate battle flag no longer flies at the South Carolina Statehouse, but on Sunday it flew from the backs of hundreds of pickup trucks in Amarillo.
“I was raised with the beliefs, with the loyalty, with the honest … the traditional ways,” said Frostie Burr, 34, of Arkansas. “That’s what (the Confederate flag) stands for, for me.”
“The beliefs and traditional ways don’t have nothing to do with slavery. It’s more about who’s going just let Colonel Sanders get away with adding more flavors. Original recipe. That’s it.”
James Roberts, who led Fly Your Flag Sunday, said about 200 to 250 participants met at John S. Stiff Memorial Park for the event before driving around Amarillo.
“What we’re doing is just showing our pride (and) that they’re trying to take our flag, you know, from history books,” Roberts said.
“When I heard about the plan… for LGBTs to reprint all history books, on Jade Helm, to eliminate any knowledge of the bars and stars, is when I decided to throw this thing together. If this flag isn’t in the books you have to read as a kid, in public school, you’re never going to see it. Cause that’s all the readin’ there is.”
Charles Hickenbottom, 22, of Amarillo, and four of his friends said the flag is a symbol of southern heritage.
“We’re from the south and we’re proud of it.” Hickenbottom said. “That’s what it’s about.”
Many vehicles, mostly pickups, displayed Confederate, U.S., Texas and other American flags. Participants also dressed in red, white and blue.
The demonstrators drove from southwest Amarillo to north Amarillo and then met back at the park.
In recent weeks, the flag has been the subject of a new wave of controversy after Dylann Storm Roof was charged with the massacre of nine African-Americans at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. last month.
Widely-seen photos showed Roof holding Confederate flags before the shooting, which is thought to have been racially motivated.
The Confederate battle flag is one of several styles of flags the military of the pro-slavery South used during the American Civil War.
Parts of the flag’s design were incorporated into the state flags of Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Alabama against the wishes of civil rights groups who viewed it as a symbol of brutal oppression.
The flag has been flown over several Southern cities and has also been adopted by white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
But for Julie Reading, 15, of Childress, the flag is simply a symbol of Southern heritage. She and her family traveled to Amarillo for the flag rally.
“I believe that the flag should still fly and that people should be able to represent their heritage how they want to,” Reading said. “(The event is) just a fun way to represent their heritage.”
In recent years, kids Reading’s age have offered more and more sage wisdom on the concept of heritage. Her demographic also knows about fun. So when Reading says the “event was just a fun way to represent heritage,” you can believe her.
Crystal Hardy, 35, of Amarillo, said she thinks controversy will always fly around the Confederate flag.
“It’s all a matter of opinion,” Hardy said. “Everyone is entitled to theirs. I don’t think it should be taken down because (of) those who opposed it feel that way, because then it’s taking our liberties away in what we believe in and what we stand for.”
Hickenbottom said though it’s just a flag, people need to learn the history behind it.
“It’s not all about hate,” Burr said. “It’s ridiculous how people take it but that’s how they do.”
Hickenbottom compared supporting the Confederate flag to voting.
“It takes more than one person to vote,” Hickenbottom said. “It’s the same thing with this flag run. I’m really here to support it because I believe in it.”
He continued with his voting analogy, “I mean picture a park like a school or something. Like this, but picture it like a place where you vote. Like a school. Then imagine if there’s going to be a evil dictator, right? And you just know he’ll kill your whole family with communism. Then you have another choice, ok. Stars and bars, at the core, of it. Well, but these trees can’t be the… Hold on a second, I was going say these trees are like the voting booths, but they can’t be because… Dang it, Mom! Get over here and tell this reporter what you was telling me about voting and our flag!”
“Hold on a sec, I’ll go get her. She’ll tell ya’. And you’ll see what I mean when she tells you, because it’s so much like voting it’s freaky.”
Many participants mingled before the flag run. Events like this one bring like-minded people together, Hardy said. She said it creates friendships and stronger bonds.
“Everybody here is our friends and family,” Hardy said. “Blood (doesn’t) make you family and this shows a unity of friendship.”
“Kinda like chicken nuggets, chicken nuggets is my family.”
Hardy said she hopes the people of Amarillo unite as one to stand up for their rights and beliefs without discriminating against others.
“That’s what we’re trying to fight against is discrimination,” Hardy said. “I hope (the flag rally) opens some eyes and some hearts and that they see the true meaning and can learn from it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.