CLEVELAND (WJW) – A state lawmaker from Cleveland introduced an amendment to ban the sale and display of confederate memorabilia, including flags, at county fairs.
“The Confederate flag is a symbol for people who want to have slavery,” said Democratic Representative Juanita Brent, who represents District 12.
Brent introduced an amendment to House Bill 665 during Wednesday’s meeting of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. It would prohibit the sale, display, possession or distribution of Confederate memorabilia at local and county fairs.
“We have to keep Ohio’s promise that everyone feels safe and secure within the United States, particularly within Ohio, and people are not going to feel safe seeing a Confederate flag every time they go to the county independent fair,” Brent said.
Republicans on the committee rejected the amendment on a party line vote of nine to seven. Brent said she planned to introduce the amendment to the full House for a vote Thursday afternoon.
Confederate flags and memorabilia have been sold each year at the Lorain County Fair by vendor Russell Bissett of West Virginia. The Lorain County Fair Board has voted to allow the continued sale as a freedom of speech.
“I don’t understand why people don’t realize the Confederate flag is a battle flag,” Bissett told FOX 8 News last August. “That’s all it is.”
Others, including Brent, view the flag is an offensive symbol of racism and white supremacy.
“That’s not freedom of speech. There’s a difference between treason and freedom of speech. We need to promote our country, not people who are against our country. The confederacy was against the country,” Brent said.
Amid recent protests and unrest following the death of George Floyd, Confederate flags and monuments have been removed throughout the country.
Wednesday, NASCAR announced it’s banning the confederate flag at events because its display “runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.”
The Ohio State Fair banned the Confederate flag in 2015. Brent said local fairs should do the same.
“If we were trying to put this inside a museum, I would be the first one to stand up and say, ‘This is part of America’s history,’” Brent said. “But, this is not part of Ohio’s history, and we should not be encouraging it.”