Protests against Confederate flag at Lorain, Ohio County Fair

LORAIN, Ohio – At last year’s Lorain county fair, Jeanine Donaldson, director of the Elyria, Ohio, YWCA, felt “uncomfortable.”  Seeing a booth there selling Confederate flags and other Confederate memorabilia, she was appalled.

“It’s like seeing ‘Li Black Sambo again!” she said.

She wasn’t the only one, but she was the one who decided to approach the Lorain County Fair Board.  The park board, dominated by conservative rural Republicans, immediately passed a resolution to “allow anyone to legally sell their goods at the fair.”

This prompted the organization of a coalition, the Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County.  That group has called for a boycott of the fair, a series of rallies and protests in this northeast Ohio steelmill town.

“We’d already decided that the Democratic Party would not have our regular booth at the fair,” stated Tong Giardini, Chair of the Lorain County Democratic Party.

“Americans fought and died to defend democracy, to win rights for all citizens of our nation.  To attend our county fair and see a flag of a slave-owning rebellion against our nation, a symbol of racism, slavery, exclusion is an outright insult to every American vet, to all American citizens.  It is the opposite of what we stand for as a party!”

Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy was one of the first to bring up the flag controversy, after attending the fair this year.

“That flag is and has been used as a flag of racism! Lorain County families embrace diversity, but that flag is embraced by those who promote hatred and who try to divide us.”

He also took his concern to the park board, only to be dumbfounded by their reaction.  The Ohio State Fair Board, for the largest fair, by far, in that state, had recently voted unanimously to ban sale of Confederate items.

“This is the flag the vile murderer of nine African American church attendees proudly displayed,” stated Lundy.  “It is the flag of racism and division.”

He pointed out that the booth with the Confederate flag had removed the U.S. flag after the issue was brought up.

A well-attended rally protesting the Confederate flag at the fair was held last week at the square in downtown Elyria.  The rally was sponsored by the newly formed Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County.

“This isn’t the flag I fought under in Vietnam,” stated highly decorated vet Sam Felton.

“The ‘legacy’ that some have spoken of with this flag is the legacy of slavery, of brutality and rebellion against our nation’s democracy.”

Speaking at the rally, State Rep. Dan Ramos D.,Lorain, stated:

“Seven score and 15 years ago, thousands of Americans, including many from Lorain County, left to fight for democracy, against slavery & what that flag stands for.  A great many gave their lives.  That flag was used to rally people defending slavery to kill American soldiers.  When we say we ‘support the troops,’ we should remember that.”

Vietnam vet, retired steelworker and SOAR member Rex Scott was angered by the Confederate flag being sold at the public county fair.

“That’s the flag of slave-owners who killed U.S. soldiers.  It’s the flag of a racist rebellion that tried to overthrow our democratic government.  They’d murder any Black soldiers capturered.  It’s an insult to any patriotic American.

“I’m in the USW—our union is for unity, against racism!  These guys are against unions, workers, immigrants and minorities.  We are for inclusion and unity!  It shouldn’t be here.”

“In Louisiana, where I’m from, you display that flag and it means you are in or stand with the KKK,” said Rev. Paul Wilson of the First United Methodist Church of Wellington.

“I get that someone has a ‘right’ to fly it, but NOT at the fair.  The fair is public.  It belongs to all of us.”

The flag issue is not going to go away, according to Jeanine Donaldson.

“Our coalition has called for more rallies.  We’re getting literature out to educate people on the issue and we’re going to up the ante.  A petition is being started & we’re asking all our friends to speak up as well.”

Spokespeople for the Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County asked supporters to contact the Lorain County Fair Board, urging removal of racist Confederate items from the fair, at:

Lorain County Fair Board, 23000 Fairgrounds Rd., Wellington, Ohio 44090

They’re also putting a petition on line at Change.org.

Photo: Lorain County Fair


CONTRIBUTOR

Bruce Bostick
Bruce Bostick

Bruce Bostick is a retired steelworker and labor activist in Ohio.

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