O.C. Civic Center replaces 50 state flags, and a Confederate symbol, with local banners
The 50 state flags circling the Plaza of the Flags at the Orange County Civic Center have been removed in response to objections over the display of a symbol that many associate with the country’s racist past.
In a ceremony Wednesday evening at the site in Santa Ana, the flags were replaced with versions representing the county, state, local cities and the military.
The change was made as a way to remove the Mississippi state flag, which contains the Confederate battle cross in the upper left-hand corner.
“We’re trying to make a strong public statement,” said Todd Spitzer, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “We’re not going to tolerate racism, we’re not going to tolerate symbols of racism, and we’re not going to have a community that feels alienated because of the symbols of racism.”
The idea for removing the Mississippi state flag, which has been on display since the 1970s, was first proposed by the Orange County Bar Assn. in 2013. The issue was of particular importance because of the flag’s proximity to the county’s central courthouse, said Ashleigh Aitken, president of the group.
“It’s important, both for our lawyers and for our clients, that when we go into the courthouse and advocate for equality, justice and due process before the law that we don’t walk outside that same courthouse and see something that’s a symbol of oppression, inequality and divisiveness,” she said.
The organization then passed a resolution seeking the flag’s removal. It also sent letters to the county and city of Santa Ana.
Although the local governments were receptive to the change, at the time it wasn’t a high priority, said Aitken.
But this year, after a white supremacist killed nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., the topic received renewed attention, in Orange County and nationally.
Confederate flags have since been removed from statehouses across the South, including in South Carolina. While some Mississippi officials called on the state to change its flag to exclude the Confederate symbol, no alteration there has been made.
Spitzer said that after these events this summer, the issue of the Mississippi flag “resurrected itself,” and he took it to the supervisors for a vote.
Rather than singling out Mississippi by removing its flag or replacing it, Spitzer said he wanted to do something affirmative.
“We could pull down the Mississippi flag and do what everyone else was doing,” he said. “But why not take this national discussion and turn it into a positive?”
Now the Plaza of the Flags features flags for the 34 cities in Orange County, the county of Orange, the state of California, the United States, the five branches of the armed services and those who are prisoners of war or missing in action.
The Orange County Public Works Department reached out to each of the 34 cities to submit artwork for their flags. While the majority of cities already had flags, some did not and are working with the county to create a design. In the meantime, those cities have placeholder flags — with a plain white background and black text displaying the city’s name.
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