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Escambia County Commission Pauses On Flag Debate

Photo via Flickr// J. Stephen Conn

If one Escambia County Commissioner gets his way, the debate and a vote on which Confederate flag to display at the Pensacola Bay Center will cool its heels for the next month or so.

On a 4-1 vote in December, the Commission approved flying only the U.S. and the Florida state flags at the facility. The Confederate battle flag was taken down, along with those representing Britain, France and Spain.

Commissioner Grover Robinson says the issue is whether to hoist the Confederate battle flag or the Confederate national banner , aka the “Stars and Bars.” He wants to delay until March a vote on what flags to display at the Bay Center.

Robinson says the motion is not an attempt to avoid taking up the issue during Black History Month. Rather, it’s a matter of having enough time for a debate.

“We just have too many people who will be speaking on this,” said Robinson. “We’re moving the meeting into the daytime to try to get a couple of commissioners out to go to the City of Champions dinner. We have a couple of other pressing issues that I’ve actually put on [the agenda]. And the reason it won’t work in the second meeting in February is that I’ll be out of town.”

Many consider the Confederate Battle Flag a symbol of racism, while others feel it’s a part of Pensacola’s history as having been a part of the Confederacy and four other nations.

Commissioner Wilson Robertson was the lone dissenting vote in December. He would also like to see one version of the Confederate national flag at the Bay Center.

“I’m in favor and I hope we can vote for that 3rd national flag that does let anyone know that we still proud of the American heritage of those Confederate soldiers that died fighting,” said Robertson.

The third Confederate national flag ,adopted in March of 1865, has a white field, with the battle flag in the upper left and a vertical red stripe on the right side. It’s also called the “Blood-Stained Banner.”

While the debate centered on replacing the battle flag, Commissioner Doug Underhill favors keeping only the U.S. flag up at the Bay Center. He pointed out that the Bay Center is not unique, and that Escambia is not the “county of five flags.”

“As much as I love my southern heritage and my southern past, it is my American present and American future” said Underhill. “Putting any other flag on the dais (sic) with this one is an insult not to our past, but to our present and our future.”

The Escambia County Commission meets Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in its chambers. It is expected to approve the request from District-4’s Grover Robinson, to delay the argument over the preferred Confederate flag at the Pensacola Bay Center. A final decision could come next month or in April – almost 150 years to the day of the Confederacy's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.