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Is taking Confederate flag off wreath at Confederate memorial violating free speech?

tkimball@heraldonline.com

The descendant of a Confederate soldier is accusing the Lancaster County Council of violating his free speech rights in removing two small Confederate battle flags from a wreath placed at the base of court house Confederate memorial

Leland Summers complained to county council last week that his First Amendment rights were denied when a county staffer removed the flags, reports the Lancaster News.

“It’s pretty damn sorry when you can’t fly a Confederate flag on a Confederate monument on Confederate Memorial Day,” Summers told the Lancaster News.

He placed the wreath and with two 12-inch by 12-inch battle flags on April 29 in front of the monument. The next day, County Administrator Steve Willis removed the flags, but left the wreath, the Lancaster News said.

Summers said his group, Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with United Daughters of the Confederacy, have carried out the wreath placement as a ritual since 1999, to mark South Carolina’s Confederate Memorial Day, an official state holiday.

Willis was quoted as saying county council member Charlene McGriff prompted the removal. He added that it was not intended to be a slight against the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a heritage group dedicated to preserving Civil War history.

“Councilwoman McGriff received complaints and relayed the matter to me,” Willis said in an interview Tuesday. “The decision to take action was mine.”

Summers told the Lancaster News he is the descendant of seven Confederate veterans, none of them slave owners.

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