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The issue of the Confederate flag is of growing concern in Wooster

Mark Potok of the Southern Law Poverty Center will present a program at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 26 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Mackey Hall, 353 E. Pine St., Wooster.

Potok, a senior fellow at SPLC and editor in chief of its investigative magazine, Intelligence Report, will discuss the historical and present-day meaning of the Confederate battle flag within the context of the rapid growth of the radical right in the years since President Barack Obama was first elected.

“In the aftermath of last year’s murder of nine black churchgoers by a flag-loving white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina, the Confederate battle flag came under widespread attack with the flag being removed from the capitol grounds in both South Carolina and Alabama,” Mark Potok said, “But we are now seeing a concerted counterattack by Confederate flag enthusiasts that threatens to re-enshrine this racist symbol around the country.”

The issue of the Confederate flag and other symbols of the Confederacy is of growing concern around the nation and also here in Wooster. Since August 2015, two months after the Charleston massacre, a coalition led by the Wooster/Orville NAACP including Westminster Presbyterian Church has been petitioning the Wayne County Fair Board to prohibit the sale and display of the Confederate flag, but the board has persistently refused to ban the flag at this great community event.

What does the Confederate battle flag really stand for and how has its meaning changed over time? How can the community fight to rid itself of this divisive and racist symbol once and for all?

“I will do my best to lead a discussion of these issues in the hope of giving Wayne County residents some clarity about what the symbol means and what its history is,” Potok said. “Although the effort to get the flag removed from the Wayne County Fair is a local, community-based one, I do hope that the information I will offer will prove to be helpful to these important efforts. In an atmosphere of real hatred, shown once again by the mass murder in Orlando, Florida, I think efforts to make our society more inclusive and tolerant are critically important. I only hope that I can live up to Pastor Coetzee’s promise of bringing insight and understanding.”

Westminster pastor Andries J. Coetzee said that he hopes to empower the people of Wayne County as the coalition and our neighbors discuss the flag at Potok’s presentation. “As we uphold the welcoming family atmosphere and diversity of Wayne County, Ohio, and the Wayne County Fair, Mr. Potok will lead us to greater insight and understanding,” he said.

Potok is one of the country’s leading experts on right-wing extremism. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Potok has appeared on numerous television news programs and is quoted regularly by journalists and scholars in both the United States and abroad. He has testified before the U.S. Senate, United Nations High Commission on human rights and in other important venues. Before joining the SPLC staff in 1997 Potok spent 20 years as an award-winning journalist at major newspapers including USA Today, the Dallas Times Herald and The Miami Herald. While at USA Today he covered the 1993 Waco siege, the rise of antigovernment militias, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the trial of Timothy McVeigh.

Published: June 16, 2016
New Article ID: 2016706169976