- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2019

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is preparing to sue the city of Columbus, Georgia, over a dispute involving the flying of the Confederate battle flag on a historic cemetery’s grounds, regional news outlets reported Thursday.

Martin O’Toole, a spokesman for the Georgia Sons of the Confederate Veterans, said the group plans to file a lawsuit in response to the Columbus City Council voting to rescind a 1994 resolution that had until recently allowed Confederate flags to be flown at Linwood Cemetery, a historic burial ground and the final resting place for scores of Confederate soldiers.

“The draft has already been completed and we’ve sent it to different attorneys for their review,” said Mr. O’Toole, a local ABC outlet reported. “I expect that we will file it this month.”

The City Council voted to rescind the resolution last month after a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans repeatedly flew the Confederate battle flag at the cemetery despite being a request by officials to display the first national flag of the Confederacy, a design that is different from the more controversial battle flag.

“So, we basically told them that was the one flag we did not want on there,” Mayor Skip Henderson said at the time, WRBL-TV reported last month. “They flew it. So council rescinded that resolution and we very carefully removed the poles.”

Mr. O’Toole said lawyers for the Sons of Confederate Veterans plan to fight the City Council’s decision on two grounds, a local CBS outlet reported.

“The major one, the first one, is a violation of the official code of Georgia, annotated section 50-3-1 that protects memorials. We believe that the city has violated that by the removal of the flagpoles. Flags were specifically mentioned in that statute,” said Mr. O’Toole.

“The second one will be breach of contract,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Henderson pointed to a statement issued by his office when reached by The Washington Times.

“The current Columbus Council deems the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag offensive to a large segment of our community and as a result, it will no longer be flown in Linwood Cemetery,” the statement said in part. “Both the previous Mayor and Mayor Henderson have attempted to work with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, owner of the two poles which have now been removed, and proposed other flags to accommodate their interests. The property of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has been treated with respect and has been removed in a manner so as not to damage it or adjacent gravesites.”

Both the flags and the flagpoles are being held at the city Department of Public Works for the Sons of Confederate Veterans to pick up, the mayor’s office said in the statement.

The resolution reached in 1994 did not specifically restrict the Confederate battle flag, WRBL reported. The Sons of Confederate Veterans subsequently reached an agreement several years ago not to fly it, however, according to the outlet.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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