- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

RICHMOND Chemical giant DuPont has prohibited workers from displaying the Confederate battle flag at its Richmond plant, prompting protests from Southern heritage groups and employees who say the policy violates their First Amendment rights.

Flag supporters have gathered in front of the plant every Thursday for the past three weeks, protesting the decision by plant manager Mike Mayberry.

"I've told many employees that we have to do this," Mr. Mayberry said. "There are emblems of that heritage, symbols that are very offensive to many of our employees."

Mr. Mayberry notified the plant's 3,500 workers in September about the ban, which also includes a moratorium on displaying the swastika and pornography on company property.

About a dozen workers had filed complaints about having to work alongside people who displayed the flag on their cars and trucks, or who wore it on T-shirts.

Unlike other bans on Confederate symbols including one in June at an Alcoa aluminum plant in Badin, N.C. Mr. Mayberry said DuPont's policy prohibits only certain symbols.

Other Confederate symbols like the Stars and Bars and pictures of Gen. Robert E. Lee are OK, Mr. Mayberry said.

"This is clearly an attack on Southern Americans," said Jerry Baxley, chairman of the Southern Party, a Richmond-based political organization that has the ultimate goal of Southern independence. "He would have been wise to have left this thing alone."

The party's logo is also banned from DuPont, since it incorporates the flag in its design. "When Mayberry says our logo is right down there with the swastika and pornography, we have a problem," Mr. Baxley said.

Mr. Baxley said it violates workers' constitutional rights if they are not allowed to express themselves. "What if the Richmond paper has a Confederate flag on it? Are you saying you couldn't bring that in to work?" he asked.

Mr. Mayberry, who took over plant operations 2 and 1/2 years ago, said it was important to create "zero tolerance" for the flag and other symbols considered disrespectful.

About 60 percent of workers at the Richmond plant are white and 40 percent are black. There are also hundreds who come from out of state or other countries, and people from different backgrounds will bring different racial prejudices into work, whether they mean to or not, Mr. Mayberry said.

"We're a mirror of society, even though a lot of times we'd like to think we're insulated," Mr. Mayberry said.

Mr. Baxley said the protesters will continue to demonstrate every Thursday until the ban is ended.

"There are more and more people coming every week," he said. "I tell you this thing is building, and we won't stop."

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