Confederate flag sparks controversy at historic Atlanta cemetery

7:18 PM, Aug 11, 2011   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- It's one of the oldest cemeteries in Atlanta, and filled with history. But a group of protestors is calling for some of that history to be removed.

"I want an explanation," says Rev. Benford Stellmacher. "But most of all, it's offensive and I would like to see it come down."

Wednesday, Rev. Stellmacher led a group to the southwest Atlanta cemetery to protest the flying of several Confederate flags. The flags are part of a memorial, erected years ago by a Confederate veterans group to honor their soldiers. More than 400 of those veterans are buried on the plot.

Cemetery vice-president Charles Bowen, Jr. says the land was sold to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and is on private property.

"It's not a racial issue anymore," Bowen says. "It's a part of our history, sure. But these are deceased veterans and, as such, they should be respected."

Stellmacher says the issue came to light following the funeral of SCLC President Rev. Howard Creecy, Jr. Rev. Creecy is buried in Westview, along with several former Atlanta mayors and the founder of Coca-Cola.

Meanwhile, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference itself says they do not have a problem with the flag because it is not flying over the cemetery.

"Unfortunately, the confederate flag was a part of American history," said SCLC interim president Isaac Newton Farris, Jr. "So I don't think you can ever have a scenario where you blot it from history."

He added: "The cemetery is the proper place for the dead. And since the Confederacy is dead, thank God, it belongs there."

Thursday, Rev. Stellmacher and several more supporters met with Bowen for almost an hour. The group says they no longer find fault with the cemetery, but will take their complaints to Sons of Confederate Veterans and plan to seek legal action in hopes of getting the flag removed.

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