Fight over Rebel Battle Flag hits Veterans Day Parade

Two proposed displays in the Austin/ Travis County Veterans Day Parade has Travis County Commissioners threatening to pull out of the parade. It's all because two groups that march in the parade use Confederate flags.

The Veterans Day parade in Austin is organized by an independent committee which receives support from the city of Austin and Travis County. Among the nearly 100 organizations to participate are two Confederate heritage groups. Video posted on the parade's Facebook site, shows the display entered by the Descendants of Confederate Veterans.

Members dressed in period costumes stand on a trailer decorated with flags from the Confederacy. Another group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, provide a color guard which marches up congress with a confederate battle flag. In a letter sent to the parade committee October 20th, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt called for a change.

She wrote, "The Confederate flag is synonymous with slavery and an affront to free people." And that, " The Symbol of Slavery is not something to honor or celebrate."

Judge Eckhardt suggested the groups use a lesser known flag called the Bonnie Blue. Its a banner which was modified by the  State of Texas into the Lone Star flag. The heritage groups say the rebel battle flag was used by the confederate army of Northern Virginia, which the Texas Brigade was assigned to, and that’s why they use it in the parade.

In a statement sent to FOX 7, SCV spokesman Marshall Davis said;

"The Travis County Veterans Association has voted twice to allow us to fly our battle flag as part of our multi flag displays. A flag under which our ancestors fought and died. Over a million Texans are descendant from Confederate Veterans and we intend to honor those Veteran's service by displaying many flags of the Confederacy."

The committee's rejection of Judge Eckhardt's idea, the last vote 11 to 0 with 4 abstentions. That action prompted her to send an e-mail. She voiced her concern that flying the Confederate Flag during the Veterans Day Parade would cause unnecessary attention."

The judge went on to say...

"...the committee bears the name of the county over which I am the judge. If the committee persists in its decision to display the Confederate Flag, I will alert the other elected officials of Travis County so that they may weigh their association with the parade."

On Tuesday County Commissioners will consider taking  what could be the first step in leaving the Veterans Day Parade. Item 23 involves Travis County Veterans Service Officer Olie Pope, who has served as the head of the parade committee for the past several years. The discussion by county commissioners is expected to focus on removing Pope from the committee, as well as withdrawing any financial support for the parade.

FOX 7 is a co-sponsor of the Veterans Day Parade. As such, we have a staff member who is on the parade committee. Our employee was one of the committee members to abstain from the vote on this matter.