In the wake of violent confrontations at a white nationalists march in Charlottesville, about two dozen residents showed up at the Stafford Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday night to take a stand against a large Confederate flag flying along Interstate 95 in the county.
Representatives of the group asked the board to consider erecting a sign or issuing a proclamation denouncing the flag. Others suggested taking a look at adjusting zoning regulations to limit the height of flagpoles on residential properties.
Stafford supervisors did not respond during the meeting. In the past, supervisors have said they had no power to act because the flag near the Falmouth exit is on private property and does not violate any local laws.
Stafford resident Bill Johnson-Miles witnessed the violent protests in Charlottesville Saturday that left one person dead and many others injured. He attended the event to protest peacefully, and recalled how hate groups attempted to drown out the counter-demonstrators singing by shouting profanity and slurs.
Johnson-Miles urged the board to take action in the aftermath of the violence.
“Is Stafford to stay silent and do nothing?” he questioned.
Edwin Santana of Stafford said the Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred that represents a time in American history when African-Americans were counted as three-fifths a person and 11 states considered slavery important enough to go to war over.
“Many motorists sitting in gridlock traffic have to look at this every day,” Santana said. “Is that the impression of the county we want people to have?”
This is not the first attempt to have the flag removed. In 2015, the Stafford chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People circulated a petition to take down the statue in the wake of a deadly shooting in an African–American church in South Carolina. The petition garnered hundreds of signatures.
Stafford NAACP President Trimetria Singleton said Tuesday that she and former presidents of the organization have spoken about this issue on several occasions. She encouraged the board to formally oppose the flag and other displays of racism in the community.
“I ask that you take a look at this to eliminate this situation and make residents feel like everyone is welcome so that the folks going up and down 95 know they are going through a county that welcomes all,” Singleton said.