As the late civil rights leader Rev. Howard Creecy Jr. was laid to rest in Atlanta on Aug. 6, mourners noticed something odd. At the cemetery where the reverend was buried after a lifetime of work in the civil rights movement, Confederate flags flew, and now, so do tempers of both those who think the flags should go and those to whom the flags represent a proud history.
"For me, it is just an affront to everything that has happened for civil rights and justice for all people that are concerned that this flag still hangs," John H. Lewis told the Associated Press.
Protesters gathered this week and publicly called for the removal of the flags that fly over a sculpture of a soldier designed to represent the 400 Confederate veterans buried in the cemetery. The memorial hosts both the familiar Confederate design as well as the Confederate national flag that served as the official banner of the seceded states at the time of the Civil War.
In favor of the flags is the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group whose members boast their lineage of those who fought in the Civil War. Unashamed of the negative connotation that the Confederate flag carries, the group is proud of the flags and intend for them to remain as a symbol of their legacy.
"Those flags have flown there for many years and will continue to fly there for many years honoring our Confederate heroes and Confederate dead," the organization told WAGA-TV according to AP. "It is not a racial issue."
Rev. Creecy Jr. died July 28 at age 57, just six short months after taking the helm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped found in the aftermath of the Montgomery bus boycott. His funeral was attended by civil rights leaders such as SCLC president emeritus Joseph Lowery, U.S. Rep. John R. Lewis and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young.
Officials from the Westview Cemetery say they are unable to remove the flags because the rights to erect and maintain the monument are owned by Confederate veterans groups.
(Photo: AP Photo/Atlanta Journal & Constitution, John Spink)