Travis Co. Commissioners discuss Confederate flag at Veterans Day Parade
On one end of the table: Terry Ayers with the Descendants of Confederate Veterans. On the other end: Nelson Linder with the Austin chapter of the NAACP.
The conversation: Flying the Confederate flag at the Veterans Day Parade.
As Fox 7 reported last week, in a letter to the Veterans Day Parade Committee, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt 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."
The parade committee is an independent group that gets support from the City of Austin and Travis County.
The group voted more than once to not exclude the Confederate heritage groups.
Olie Pope is the Veterans Services Officer for Travis County. He's also the head of the parade committee. Judge Eckhardt considered that a point of conflict and it was expected that Eckhardt could remove Pope as the committee head and possibly withdraw county support for the parade.
"I don't know if the judge thought the threat of removing the county's role in the parade would frighten the committee into changing its vote or whether the judge wanted out anyway and saw this as an opportunity to use us as a scapegoat...who knows?" said Terry Ayers from the podium.
Ayers said either way, it's not right.
"We have gone from being just another entry in the parade to now being the center of a controversy that we did not create, we did not seek, we did not want, we did not need," Ayers said.
Linder tells Fox 7 the flag is a racist symbol that should have been buried a long time ago.
"I'm a Veteran by the way. The Confederate soldiers were not American soldiers in terms of what was good, they were bad. They were opposed to the Union and opposing black people. You can't misconstrue that, you can't turn it upside down, that's history," Linder said.
After executive session, several of the commissioners gave their varying opinions on the issue. An emotional Eckhardt weighed in herself saying members of her family have fought in nearly every armed conflict since the late 1830's.
"I take a tremendous amount of pride in my family heritage. And my great uncle was a Confederate officer. But I find no honor in the cause of the Confederacy," she said.
Judge Eckhardt's ultimate decision was to take no action. She said they will continue to get briefings on how to disassociate themselves from the parade committee's decision to include the rebel flag.
Olie Pope decided to step down as the parade chair anyway.
Judge Ekhardt thanked Pope for his service and apologized for the conflict that led to his resignation as the parade chair.
So as of right now the flag will fly and the county will be a part of the parade.