LEXINGTON, Va. – Conversations over the divisive Confederate battle flag continue in Virginia, as many gathered Friday to honor Confederate heritage, as they always do on Lee-Jackson Day.
Many of them feel that they’re under more scrutiny than ever before.
A small crowd formed Friday morning at the foot of the statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson in Lexington. They held a symbol that’s seen by many as racist and pro-slavery, but the members of the Virginia Flaggers said that’s a misunderstanding.
“We’re going to celebrate our families. We’re also going to celebrate our veterans,” said Virginia resident Barry Isenhour. “It’s about the soldier to us. It’s always about the soldier.”
He said those who want to honor Confederate history should, at the same time, condemn other uses of the Confederate battle flag.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is pushing to get rid of the holiday, but the group said they’ll hold events every year either way.
The annual parade has been going on there for decades, but the city is pulling back support and events like the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville showed hate groups waving the same flag.
“We try to make these people see that we’re not hateful,” one demonsrator said.
As the group lined Main Street holding flags, folks watched as they passed by.
“It’s a conundrum because you far too often see the holding of these flags in situations of white supremacy,” said Lexington resident Karen Hembree.
Confederate heritage groups used to hold events at Washington and Lee University, which has since backed off its recognition of the generals.
Brandon Dorsey has been organizing events in Lexington for this holiday for more than two decades and said the atmosphere has been more contentious over the last few years, with mounting criticism of their stances.
“Fighting this ongoing battle with a political movement of sorts that is seeking to destroy everything related to it out of complete ignorance and mischaracterization of what these men stand for,” he said.
They feel they’re under more scrutiny than ever before.
“We’ve gotten into almost a collectivist mindset to where there’s one narrative and everybody has to follow it and if you don’t believe that or go along with it, or you know something different, they want to silence you,” Dorsey said.
A Lee-Jackson Day memorial service starts Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in Lexington. The annual parade will follow.