Confederate flag: License plates, statues and even a rock star ensnared in debate


Story highlights

Tom Petty: Using Confederate flag on tour was "dumb, and it shouldn't have happened"

Mississippi officials want to change the state flag, but some legislators are opposed

CNN —  

Get ready for more Confederate flag debates across the country.

Calls for removing – or keeping – the Confederate battle flag are heating up across the South. The controversy has reached a university in Texas, the streets of Louisiana and a mountain in Georgia.

The debate intensified after South Carolina took down the Confederate battle flag from outside its state capitol, following the massacre of nine black church members in Charleston by a white man who reportedly said he was there to kill black people.

Here’s the latest in the battle over the Confederate battlefield flag:

Tom Petty: I was ‘downright stupid’

Tom Petty
Jerod Harris/Getty Images
Tom Petty

Singer Tom Petty told Rolling Stone he was ignorant and “dumb” to use the Confederate flag as a backdrop for his Southern Accents tour in 1985.

“I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant,” Petty told the magazine. “It was on a flagpole in front of the courthouse, and I often saw it in Western movies. I just honestly didn’t give it much thought, though I should have.”

Petty said he supported the removal of the flag from the statehouse grounds and said the symbol “shouldn’t represent us in any way.”

“People just need to think about how it looks to a black person,” he said. “It’s just awful. It’s like how a swastika looks to a Jewish person. It just shouldn’t be on flagpoles.”

Mountain carving in Georgia

The Atlanta branch of the NAACP is calling for the removal of all Confederate symbols from the state-owned Stone Mountain Park, where a prominent carving on the side of the mountain shows three Confederate leaders on horseback.

Richard Rose, president of the local NAACP chapter, said the carving and surrounding depictions of the Civil War offer a false narrative and have no place on public property.

“That carving is a great piece of art, but it was commissioned out of hate and white supremacy,” Rose said. “The state should not be supporting or condoning white supremacy with my tax dollars.”

But John Bankhead, spokesman for the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which maintains the park, said the property is self-sufficient. Park maintenance and operations are covered by revenues, not tax dollars, he said.

He also said changes to the park must be approved by the state government.

County building in Florida

Back-and-forth protests will continue Wednesday in Marion County, Florida, over the Confederate flag that came down – and then went back up.

Demonstrators will gather for a sit-in at the county’s McPherson Government Complex to call for the removal of the flag. The protest follows a weekend rally in support of the flag.

After the shootings in Charleston, county administrators took down the flag that had flown outside the administration building in Ocala for two decades, CNN affiliate WFTV said.

But residents complained, partly because the county commission didn’t make the decision. Last week, the commission voted to put the flag back up.

Statues at the University of Texas

What should the University of Texas at Austin do about three statues of Confederate leaders on campus?

A public forum will take place Wednesday to tackle that question.

UT president Gregory L. Fenves has asked a 12-member task force to look into the historical, artistic and political intent of the statues and make a recommendation about their placement by August 1, the university said.

Pro-flag rally in Louisiana

A sea of motorcycles and trucks roared into West Monroe, Louisiana, on Tuesday night decked with the Confederate battle flag.

“We won’t stand down and let our heritage be stomped on,” Cole Watson told CNN affiliate KNOE.

He and Brandon Bell were among the hundreds of revelers at the pro-flag rally.

“To us, it’s a symbol of something we believe in,” Bell told KNOE. But he added that the protest isn’t just about the flag itself.