76ºF

Charitable group sporting Confederate flag raises concern

Battle Flage Rally for Freedom drew protests in Floyd on Saturday

FLOYD, Va. – A motorcycle ride raising money for charity Saturday afternoon is also raising concern about its political message.

The Battle Flag Rally for Freedom is being criticized by some for openly displaying the Confederate flag, but the group says its main goal is to raise money and supplies for good causes.

People participating in the rally say they're simply celebrating their heritage while also collecting nonperishable food items for the food pantry and raising money for a family in need, but as the group made its way from Bedford County to the town of Floyd, it was met with people who didn't appreciate the symbolism.

The group began its event in the Bedford County Walmart parking lot Saturday, hoisting flags to prepare for the ride.

"The flag itself represents freedom, liberty, and those are the things we're trying to get people to understand," said Greg Aldridge, who participated in the rally and is a member of the Roanoke Tea Party.

In addition to collecting food items, the group raised money for Jessica Woods, who recently lost her partner in a motorcycle accident.

"It's extremely special. I mean, this just shows what kind of people that we are, and who support these flags," said Woods.

As the group got ready to leave, African-American country singer Sean Elliott Jr. offered his words of support.

"When I see the flag, again, I see Southern heritage, Southern pride, country. That's what I see," said Elliott.

The group's destination was the town of Floyd, where state police were on standby for a potential altercation. One person protesting the group was Floyd resident Mary Freeday.

"For a lot of people, this flag symbolizes heritage, but for other people this flag symbolizes slavery and torture," said Freeday.

Freeday says she wishes the group wouldn't bring that symbol through her town.

"They would like for people who are hurt by the flag to get over it and to learn about the Confederate history that they cherish, but it's just like me telling them to just get over it. Neither group is ever going to get over it," said Freeday.

But Aldridge says people like Freeday are just misinterpreting the flag's message.

"People who believe that the Confederate flags and Confederate statues, that they're victimized by these things, are really victims by the people who have told them that nonsense," said Aldridge.

In addition to the protests on Main Street in Floyd, one largely African-American church, Mount Zion, hosted volunteers who helped to build a roof on the building to try to divert attention from the rally and onto something positive. So in the end, both sides wound up giving their time and effort to charity.