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Thursday, June 25, 2015

ESSEX COUNTY FREEHOLDERS

CALL FOR THE REMOVAL OF THE CONFEDERATE BATTLE FLAG

Board Unanimously Approves Resolution Calling for the Flag

To be Removed from the South Carolina Statehouse Grounds

And all State, County and Local Government Buildings and Property Acrosss the South

(Newark, NJ) – The Members of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a Resolution at their meeting held last night at Montclair Town Hall calling upon the South Carolina State Legislature, and all state, county and local governments throughout the South, to remove Confederate Battle Flags from their buildings and properties.  Freeholder President Britnee N. Timberlake of East Orange, who initiated the Resolution, was joined by all of her freeholder colleagues to sponsor the Resolution by Acclamation, and it was approved unanimously, 8-0.

Before reading the text of the Resolution aloud, Timberlake explained her deep-seeded conviction that the flag is a symbol, not of Southern pride and heritage, but of racial hatred and intolerance, by recounting a very personal incident in her childhood when, as a bi-racial child living near her dad’s Army base in North Carolina, she witnessed a march by members of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan adorned in their white hoods and gowns amid a sea of Confederate flags, “… an experience I have never forgotten, and one that has driven me, ever since, to fight for social justice and racial equality.”

The text of the Board’s Resolution follows:

CALLING UPON THE SOUTH CAROLINA STATE LEGISLATURE & ALL STATE, COUNTY AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ENTITIES IN THE SOUTH TO REMOVE THE CONFEDERATE BATTLE FLAG FROM THEIR BUILDINGS AND PROPERTIES

WHEREAS, the Confederate Battle Flag is prominently displayed at full-mast in front of the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, flying in stark contrast to the love and compassion displayed by the residents of Charleston, South Carolina, in the aftermath of the murder of nine African-Americans while they studied the Bible at Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday, June 17, 2015; and

WHEREAS, information that has emerged about the hate-filled murderer reveals him to be a racist, white supremacist, and registered owner of a website where he presented his racist “manifesto” and displayed photographs of himself wearing a jacket adorned with international symbols of white supremacy and racism such as the flags of Apartheid Era South Africa and the racist regime of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), waving the Confederate Battle Flag, and standing in front of his car affixed with a “Confederate States of America” license plate; and

WHEREAS, the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag evokes deep-rooted and undeniably painful feelings among African-Americans, so many of whose ancestors endured the cruelty, inhumanity and exploitation of slavery suffered at the hands of slave owners whose very descendants continue to revere the flag as a commemoration of fallen Confederate soldiers who fought to preserve a way of life predicated and dependent upon the institution of slavery; and

WHEREAS, the Confederate Battle Flag was flown by the Army of Northern Virginia as it went into battle to defend the precepts of the Confederacy presented by its Vice President, Alexander H. Stephens, in his “Cornerstone Speech” on March 21, 1861, when he described the new Confederate Government: “Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.  This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”  And although the majority of the young men who took up arms were poor dirt farmers who did not own slaves, it is also true that they aspired to own slaves so they, too, might ride their oppression to financial success; and

WHEREAS, the Confederate Battle Flag was incorporated into the national flag of the Confederate States of America and its current defenders assert its historical importance, the truth is that it only emerged as a so-called revered symbol of the Confederacy in 1948 when white segregationists, “Dixiecrats” like then-South Carolina Governor J. Strom Thurmond, flew it as a symbol of their commitment to segregation and opposition to federal intervention into race relations; when Georgia incorporated it into its state flag in 1954 after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board that segregation in education was unconstitutional; when it was proudly waved by hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan (which has been declared a domestic terrorist group by the FBI); and when it appeared above the South Carolina State House for the first time as recently as 1961 as a symbol of resistance to racial desegregation; and

WHEREAS, it is wholly disingenuous for Confederate Battle Flag defenders to assert that it is nothing more than a benign symbol of a Southern way of life defended by courageous Confederate soldiers, an assertion that is just as disingenuous as it is for neo-Nazis to characterize the swastika as a symbol of German efficiency, or for neo-Fascists to rally around Mussolini’s fasces as nothing more than a fond remembrance of trains that ran on-time; and

WHEREAS, the massacre at Mother Emanuel, so near to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor where Confederate cannons bombarded Union defenders in April of 1861 to begin the Civil War, has infused new urgency into the effort in South Carolina and beyond to remove the Confederate Battle Flag at the State House, and wherever it flies on government property across the South.  The generosity, forgiveness and faith exhibited by the people of Charleston honors those who were gunned-down in a house of worship and calls out to all people of decency and understanding to reject racism and intolerance in all of its forms, whether they are acts of violence or divisive symbols; and

WHEREAS, the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders applauds South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for her recent call to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the State House, and especially leaders of the African-American community and all people committed to racial equality who have advocated doing the same for many decades, and who acknowledge it as a symbol of a racist past that has no place in our nation’s future; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders hereby calls upon the Honorable Members of the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House; calls upon all state, county and local governments across the South to remove it from their respective buildings and properties; and encourages them to relegate it to appropriate museums of historical artifacts, if not to the trash heap of other symbols of hate that preceded it and have, sadly, succeeded it; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this Resolution be forwarded to Governor Nikki Haley, the President of the South Carolina Senate, the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives, President Barack Obama, Governor Chris Christie and the Clerks of the Boards of Chosen Freeholders in the State of New Jersey.

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For Additional Information, contact:

Gary Kroessig, Public Information Officer

Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders

973-621-4452

gkroessig@freeholders.essexcountynj.org

Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Essex
Hall of Records - Room 558, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tel: (973) 621-4486 Fax: (973) 621-5695