|Updated: 1/24/2011 10:56 pm
||Published: 1/24/2011 9:55 pm
MARSHALL, AR – After the mayor of a small Arkansas town flew the confederate flag in observance of Robert E. Lee’s birthday, the city council passed an ordinance Monday saying only the US flag and Arkansas flag can be flown on city property.
Mayor Jim Smithson flew the flag above Marshal City Hall from the 14th to the 18th of January. It resulted in numerous phone calls, e-mails, and an emergency meeting to make sure it does not happen again.
City council member Dolphus Milam voted for the ordinance. “If they want to fly the confederate flag, let them fly it at home, why put it on City Hall?”
Mayor Jim Smithson says he doesn't regret his decision to fly the confederate flag but he does regret the fallout. "Out of what I consider disrespect for Robert E Lee's birthday and the hero that he was to a lot of people just like Martin Luther King, Jr. is to a lot of people.”
Only one city council member voted against the ordinance. Kenneth Daniel flies the confederate flag year round on his own property. "It just should be freedom of speech. If you want to fly the confederate flag for Robert E. Lee Day, fly it.”
Daniel and Mayor Smithson say flying the confederate flag is not a racial issue but standing up for southern heritage, the military, and state's rights.
While the majority of the city council feels this ordinance was the appropriate response to the controversy last week, many people agree with the mayor. The mayor says people in town have come up to him asking to shake his hand saying they're proud of his actions and respect him for flying the confederate flag.
One resident attending the meeting, Larry Cotton, was critical of the decision. “I’m going to be very frank, you’re afraid you’re going to offend the blacks, that’s what it amounts to.”
Cotton went on to say, “There are some of us that are proud of their heritage. My great-grandfather fought under that flag and I’m proud of that fact, and I think it’s a shame. I’m not a history buff, but I don’t think you can find anything in the history books bad about Robert E. Lee.”
Kim Ragland, also a resident attending the meeting, wondered what effect this would have on the troops. “This is a slap in the face to every man or woman fighting for our country because you’re saying, ‘You know what, what you’re doing, it’s not going to matter.’”
Other residents who supported the mayor said that Robert E. Lee didn’t support slavery, but state’s rights. They said they are not against the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but they say they feel Robert E. Lee doesn’t get the respect they say he deserves.
As for the ordinance itself, it provides that flying a flag other than the US flag or the Arkansas flag on city property will get the offender a $1,000 fine for the first offense and a $5,000 fine for each offense thereafter.