A notable attorney in Alabama sparked controversy when he removed Confederate flags from the graves of soldiers at a local cemetery.
Myron Penn, a lawyer and former state senator in Union Springs, Alabama, removed the flags from a Confederate cemetery in downtown Union Springs on Mother’s Day with his family. Penn said he did it for the sake of his 4-year-old son.
“The reason why we picked them up is because the image of the flags in our community, a lot of people feel that they're a symbol of divisiveness and oppression of many people in our community,” Penn said. “Especially with the history that that flag and the connotation and negativism that it brings. I would think that no one in our community would have a problem with this or with my actions at all.” After removing the flags, Penn placed them in a bag and left it at City Hall.
Local response to the attorney’s act was mixed, with some even arguing what he did is illegal.
“It's not about race or the flag or anything else,” resident Rebecca Atkins said. “It's about decency and respect for the dead. You don't do stuff like that. You got to give respect where it's deserved and those soldiers gave their lives just like any other soldier gives their lives. It's nothing racial and it's not about discrimination. You look at the person who served for our country and that's what matters.”
Others responded positively to the flag removal, saying that Penn did the right thing for the community.
“I just thought it was great when he did that,” resident Tchernavia Blackmon said. “He said that he came up there with his little boy and [I] thought it was absolutely great. He did the right thing. I wish I had been out there to help him pick up the flags. He did a great job.”
Many cited Alabama Code 13A-7-23.1, which states that it is illegal to “willfully and wrongfully or maliciously destroy, remove, cut, break, or injure any tree, shrub, plant, flower, decoration, or other real or personal property within any cemetery or graveyard.”
Penn disputed the accusation, saying that the flags remained at City Hall for anyone to claim.
“I invite anyone to say how I've broken the law by removing the flags,” he said. “They're making my point with the ugly comments and the meanness. It's exactly why those flags shouldn't be there in our community because that's not what our community stands for. We want our community to grow. We want all of our people, especially our children to feel as though they're growing up in a community that is not divided. I would think that everyone here in Bullock County feels the same way.”
Penn maintained that he had no regrets about what he did, despite the backlash caused by his actions.
“The action that I've taken to get the flags up would not be one that divides people,” he said. “In fact, it's the opposite. It's one that would bring our community together to say this is our community, this is our town, this is Bullock County. We're one of inclusion. We don't want to hurt anybody. We don't want to remind anyone of an oppressive past. We want to move our community forward economically and socially. I did this not just for my child, but for all the children and all the parents who would want to do the same kind of thing to make sure that they do not grow up in a community that does not appear to be divided.”
Photo Credit: WBTV