- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

COLUMBIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Kirk Chidester says he had distant relatives who fought for the South in the U.S. Civil War.

He sees the Confederate flag they fought under as a battle flag and part of U.S. history.

“You can’t erase history,” Chidester told the Jackson Citizen Patriot (http://bit.ly/1RvgYOk ) Saturday as he and about 30 other people gathered in a southern Michigan community to commemorate Confederate Flag Day.

The group carried various versions of the flag in a carpool lot in Columbia Township, southwest of Detroit.

The public display of Confederate symbols has been widely debated since the slayings of nine black worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June. The white suspect had previously posed for online photos with the rebel flag, which has a red field with a blue X dotted by 13 white stars.

But Steve Panther, who organized the Columbia Township rally, said the gathering was meant to celebrate participants’ Southern state roots.

“Since I was a little boy, I was taught the truth: Be proud of who you are and where you come from,” Panther said.

Some passing truck drivers blew their horns to support those holding the flags, while some motorists yelled in opposition.

A similar rally was held Saturday at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Gettysburg. The group said it was intended to honor Southern ancestors.

A counter-demonstration was organized by a Gettysburg College associate professor of history and Africana studies who said he wanted to offer a different perspective on the flag’s meaning.

Police and park officers had to separate a few people as the two sides traded insults. There were no reports of trouble at the rally in Michigan.

___

Information from: Jackson Citizen Patriot, http://www.mlive.com/jackson

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