Nearly 500 people braved extreme temperatures on Saturday to watch a hydraulic crane hoist a gargantuan Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia—commonly known as the Confederate Flag. Measuring 30 by 50 feet, the flag has been described as the largest of its kind in the country.
The event took place as part of an ongoing reaction to an August 2015 city council ruling which stated that only the American, Virginian, city, and POW/MIA flags could be displayed on Danville city property—in essence, banning the Confederate flag from public spaces. In response, protesters have reportedly raised 14 Confederate flags in the area over the past year.
Saturday's flag-raising was reportedly carried out by a coalition of groups, including the Heritage Preservation Association, which posted pictures of the massive flag on their Facebook page.
The group Virginia Flaggers, which also took part in the flag-raising, posted video of the event to its Facebook page.
And shared a taunting picture of the massive flag on Twitter:
On its website, Virginia Flaggers head Susan Hathaway explained:
The flag site will be dedicated in honor of William Lewis Cabell, a Confederate Brigadier General born in Danville, who served the Confederacy with distinction and helped design the Confederate Battle Flag. After the war, he moved west and served three terms as the Mayor of Dallas, TX and was active and influential in the United Confederate Veterans. He oversaw several large veterans reunions, assisted in establishing pensions, veterans homes, and Confederate cemeteries in Texas, and served as commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the UCV.
Speaking with local ABC affiliate WSET, one event attendee trotted out the well-worn explanation that "it's not hate, its heritage… it's American Heritage, and you can't erase history."
Naturally, not everyone is thrilled at having a Confederate flag shoved in their face while they drive down Virginia's Route 29.
— Jade Helm Commander (@Anomaly100) July 27, 2016
great!! just what Danville needs!! a big ass ugly flag!!! pic.twitter.com/GpVoF5qhdI
— lil (@wiwwiee) July 23, 2016
The Confederate flag has faced renewed, strengthened criticism in the past year after it was linked to the white supremacist responsible for shooting and killing nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. Since then, rallies to bar the symbol from official use took place across the south, including in Mississippi and South Carolina. There, activist Bree Newsome scaled a 30-foot pole to remove the Confederate flag from a memorial outside the Columbia, SC, statehouse.
The Danville Register & Bee reports a lawsuit brought by the Heritage and Preservation Association to challenge the Danville City Council's ruling was rejected by the state's supreme court. The group has filed a petition to have their case re-heard.