Thursday, August 23, 2012

Va Flaggers Update: Reidsville, NC

Sunday, September 19th, the Va Flaggers traveled to Reidsville, NC to stand with Jamie Funkhouser and the Tar Heel Flaggers in the spot where the Reidsville Confederate Monument once stood. 
We arrived to rainy weather and to find Jamie already in position and enjoying breakfast someone had dropped off for him.  Right away we realized that this is no normal flagging situation (if there is one).  Inside the traffic circle, where the monument once proudly stood, the city has planted vegetation, in an obvious move to keep Jamie from standing comfortably (and safely) inside.  There is a 6" curb separating the inside from the sidewalk that surrounds it.  Once Jamie was driven out of the circle, he was then told he could not stand on the sidewalk, because it was officially not a sidewalk, but rather a rolling curb, for vehicles to use if they can't make the turn...SO...Jamie stands on the 6" of curb.  Wanting to hear about this firsthand, I spent the first hour or so walking around the statue on the sidewalk.  Sure enough, we were visited by a Reidsville Police Officer who stopped by and told me I had to stand on the curb or leave the circle.  So, we all stood on the curb  for the remainder of the day. 
This video describes the curb situation well:
And here's one of Va Flagger TriPp Lewis having a little fun walking the tightrope:
"Do not damage plants or vegetation", AKA "Do not stand here, Jamie Funkhouser".  Vegetation must be preserved in Reidsville. Confederate monuments, on the other hand...not so much. 
There were 10 of all together, and we were able to surround the traffic circle for most of the day.  Traffic was brisk and the people of Reidsville were OVERWHELMINGLY supportive.  Shouts of "God Bless You", "We're gonna get him back", and especially expressions of thanks were the norm as folks passed us on the curb.  Lori Dodson met us when we arrived and made her business available to us for bathroom breaks and left us a supply of drinks and snacks.  Another Reidsville resident stopped by to bring us biscuits. 
Throughout the (did I mention very rainy?) day, we also received visits from HPAC officials, who stopped by to thank each of us personally and to shake our hands, including Dianne Parnell, VP (who also brought some DELICIOUS, STILL WARM chocolate chip cookies), Ira Tilley, Public Relations, and Sherry Graham, Secretary.  I can tell you that the Va Flaggers have never received such a warm reception as we did from the people of Reidsville on this rainy day.
We have heard about this situation from Jamie for over a year now, but until I stood where he stands, I could not truly understand.  He showed us the direction from which the car came that "accidentally" hit the statue.  Take a look at this picture I took, looking in the direction the car was coming.  The story (and they are sticking to it) is that the driver fell asleep and hit the statue.  What you might not realize is that he would have had to have been sleeping and operating the gas pedal, because he would've been traveling UPHILL!!!  Seems very unlikely when you stand and look at it...
This young lady was walking by with a young man and a baby in a stroller.  Curious, she walked across the street and asked us what was going on.  TriPp explained the situation, and described what had happened to the monument and that we were out here to protest the removal of a monument to Confederate veterans.  Satisfied, she starts to walk back across the street and yells out  to the young man..."It's ok...they ain't no racists!".
Changing hearts and minds. :)
We finished out the day by planting a set of stick flags in the spot where the monument once stood, and then went to visit the cemetery on the edge of town, where the NC State UDC has decided to relocate the statue to a "safer, less controversial location".  There, we found that there was already a perfectly beautiful monument for the Confederate soldiers.  We planted stick flags here, as well...
Before we left, we also discovered that a flag pole, which once flew a Confederate flag over these graves and this monument, had been taken up, and was hiding in a large cedar tree, leaving the flag stand empty, and NO Confederate flag flying. 
Sickened, outraged, angered and blood boiling despite being soaked and chilled to the bone, we packed up and pulled out of the cemetery to head back home to Richmond...
The Virginia Flaggers were here!!!!
We can only hope and pray someone in Reidsville will take on the task of checking on the flag and making sure it flies EVERY DAY!
I was interviewed by a reporter from Reidsville yesterday and she told me that Mrs. Ezell, NC UDC President, told her that the reason they were moving the Reidsville Confederate Monument to a cemetery was to protect it from getting damaged
again. I hope someone who knows Mrs. Ezell will share with her what is happening in Selma, AL. Even as I am typing this, a Confederate hater has gathered 12,000 signatures on a petition to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from the cemetery there (what's left of it), AFTER it was moved there from its original home.
The Confederate monument in Reidsville needs to go RIGHT BACK IN THE CENTER OF TOWN, where the ladies of the UDC erected it 101 years ago! If it gets damaged again, prosecute the offenders and keep rebuilding! If these people see us giving up like this, it will be open season on our monuments.  Want to get rid of one?  Just mow it down and "poof" disappears.  Our ancestors did not give up without a fight...why are we so eager to?
It was an honor and a privilege for the Va Flaggers to travel to Reidsville to stand for those who are no longer standing, both human and marble, in this case.  We will return.  We urge all Southerners to support Jamie Funkhouser, the HPAC, and the NC Div, Sons of Confederate Veterans as they continue to fight the good fight and work to return the statue to its rightful home.
Susan Hathaway
Va Flaggers