After displacing an upcoming parade in Lexington that for years has celebrated the Confederacy, an anti-racism group is holding its ground.
The Community Anti-Racism Education Initiative has decided not to trade its permit for a Jan. 14 parade — which will honor Martin Luther King Jr. and all that he stood for — with a permit being sought by the Virginia Flaggers, a pro-Confederate flag group that has asked the city for permission to hold its parade two days later, on the federal holiday that honors King.
The Flaggers applied for the permit and proposed the swap this week, after learning that CARE had obtained a permit for Jan. 14, the day that traditionally has been reserved for a Lee-Jackson Day parade held by a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
CARE’s decision to decline the offer raises the possibility of a parade of Confederate flag defenders through downtown Lexington on a day that commemorates a champion of the civil rights movement.
“We don’t feel we are responsible for their decision to hold an event themed around the Confederacy on the federal holiday that honors Martin Luther King,” said Frederick Heard, one of the organizers of CARE. “We think it’s a poor decision, but we’re not responsible for that.”
A statement from the Virginia Flaggers said the group was weighing its options, which could include moving forward with plans for a parade on the Monday holiday that honors King — or by holding other activities in Lexington on the preceding weekend of Jan. 14-15, which is bookended by the Lee-Jackson state holiday on Friday.
It could be a contentious weekend in what the Flaggers call “the shrine of the South,” where Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are interred and where displays of the Confederate flag have stirred dissent for years.
“This disrespectful stunt by C.A.R.E. [sic] is likely to have quite the opposite effect from what they intended,” Virginia Flaggers representative Grayson Jennings wrote in the statement.
“We have been contacted by folks from across the country who are making plans to rally to Lexington for the first time, in support of Lee and Jackson and in response to the actions taken by C.A.R.E. We fully expect this will draw even more heritage supporters to Lexington and are looking forward to our biggest crowds yet.”