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Escambia County Commission To Resume Flag Debate

After waiting a few weeks, the Escambia County Commission on Thursday is expected to discuss which, if any,  Confederate flag should be displayed at the Pensacola Bay Center.

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 England, France and Spain.

Commissioner Grover Robinson says the issue is whether to hoist the Confederate battle flag or the Confederate national banner: the “Stars and Bars.” He wanted to delay the vote on what should fly at the Bay Center until this month. He said the motion was not an attempt to avoid taking up the issue during February, which is Black History Month. He said in mid-February it was a matter of having enough time for a debate.

“We just have too many people who will be speaking on this,” said Robinson.

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 five different nations.

Commissioner Wilson Robertson was the lone dissenting vote in December. He would also like to see some 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 5:30 p.m. in its chambers. A final decision could come later this month or in April which marks 150 years after the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.

Photo credit: United Confederate Veterans' Versions of the Official Confederate Flags
Source: UCV, The Flags of the Confederate States of America, 1907