WILLINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — The Council on American Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, joined the call to ban the sale of the Confederate flag at the Lorain County Fair.
CAIR announced the call for the ban and plans to protest the sale of the flag on its website and Twitter on Friday, about a week after it renewed a call for local governments nationwide to remove all Confederate symbols from public spaces.
The Lorain County Fair begins on Monday, Aug. 19 and fair officials will once again allow Confederate flags to be sold at the fair, according to WKYC.
A protest will be held at the fair on Tuesday, Aug. 20, according to CAIR.
CAIR-Cincinnati Executive Director Karen Dabdoub said the flag is a symbol of hatred and racism and should not be allowed at the fair or any public facility.
“Those who wish to traffic in racist symbols that only serve to marginalize their fellow Americans should not be permitted to do so in a public facility at a community celebration. Instead, they should seriously consider putting their time and talents toward positive pursuits that make their community stronger and more inclusive,” Dabdoub said.
CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper agreed.
Hooper said the Confederate flag should be rejected by all Americans and added that any “enterprise” that supports racism should be avoided.
“Symbols glorifying and honoring white supremacy, slavery and treason should be repudiated by all Americans, not put on display at mainstream venues,” Hooper said. “Those who reject white supremacy and racism can best demonstrate that rejection by avoiding any enterprise that seeks to profit from hate.”
A call for a boycott of the fair has been issued by Sam Felton, Lorain County’s most decorated veteran, according to CAIR and the Morning Journal.
In the past, groups have protested the continued sale of the flag, which many feel is a symbol of racism due to its associations with southern secession during the Civil War, according to WKYC.
The Fair Minded Coalition of Lorain County has posted a billboard for the second year in a row, speaking out against the flag and the fair.
However, the fair has not budged, and the flag will continue to be sold at the fair.
Officials say it is a matter of free speech.
“I don’t see anything wrong with selling them, me personally,” vendor Russell Bissett, whose stand sold the flag last year, told WKYC. “You have a choice, you don’t have to buy it if you don’t want it. If you want it, you can buy it.”
Kim Meyers, a member of the Lorain County Fair Board, says he understands the criticism but adds he doesn’t believe the flag is a symbol of racism.
“We look at it as a historical symbol from one side of the Civil War,” he said.
Meyers says there are guidelines the fair board follows, which ban merchandise that is offensive. He says he and the board doesn’t believe the flag is, adding there are more things sold than just the Confederate flag by the vendor.
“We made the decision that selling the Civil War memorabilia because it’s not just the Confederate, it’s also the Union stuff,” he said.”It’s permissible.”
Sam Felton, a Vietnam war veteran who lives in Lorain County, said the flag is offensive and it should not be sold at the fair.
“You don’t continuously make a living off of something that symbolizes hate, separatism, and racism,” Felton said.
Jeanine Donaldson, who is with the Fair Minded Coalition, agrees, said it’s not a black or white issue, but a community standards issue.
She said there was a time where you could buy racist memorabilia of black people during the Jim Crow south, but times have changed.
Donaldson said this is no different.
“[The Confederate flag] does not represent the values of the people of Lorain County,” she said.
Donaldson hopes this year will be the last it’s sold at the fair.
“I think over time we are going to change hearts and minds,” she said.
But Meyers said he doesn’t believe that will happen.
“If you go through everything people find objectionable pretty soon you have nothing,” he said. “This gentleman sells Pittsburgh Steelers shirts, but we’re Browns fans.”
In 2015, the Ohio State Fair decided to ban the sale of Confederate flags.
That same year, major retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, eBay, and more decided to stop selling the flag as well.