A version of the Confederate Flag has been removed from Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, following in the footsteps of many southern states who have removed the symbol from government offices and properties in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting.
While the design of the flag at the shipyard was not an exact replica of the well-known Confederate Flag, it was still considered a questionable image and was removed after reporters asked Capt. Scott Brown about the flag. The image was historical to the shipyard, as it had flown over the area in Portsmouth since 1967 right next to an American flag, a British flag and the state flag of Virginia, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
The four flags will now be placed in a museum under Capt. Brown’s orders. All four flagpoles now display American flags, according to the Associated Press.
This reflects a national movement revolving around the removal of Confederate Flags; Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina supported a measure to remove the flag from state grounds and place it in a historical museum. The South Carolina legislature later approved the measure, and the flag was taken down.
The Confederate Flag has divided Americans along racial lines for years, but it did not become a national debate until last month after nine African Americans were murdered by 21-year-old Dylan Roof, a white supremacist who featured the Confederate Flag on his social media account. Americans continued to be divided on the issue, but a majority of politicians from both parties have united to end the display of the flag near state office buildings.
“Due to the recent events, I would say it’s offensive,” Priscilla Bonilla, a former sailor, told The Virginian-Pilot about the flag flying at the shipyard.
During her walk to work, she never noticed the flag was flying until a reporter pointed it out to her.
“I can understand both sides because of the history,” she added. “But I can see how you don’t want to send a message that you support it, and if you allow it, that’s what you are showing people.”
Another former sailor, Will Aygarn, believes the flag is a symbol of southern pride and history, not a symbol of racism.
“The flag means history, Princess Anne County and family heritage and Virginia’s opposition to the invading federal armies,” he said. “I think that Virginia’s involvement in the war is nothing at all to be ashamed of.”
Although there is no specific law governing the display of the Confederate Flag, a Navy spokesperson told The Virginian-Pilot that the Pentagon rules call for good order and discipline. At the end of the day, it is up to the commanding officer -- in this case, Capt. Scott Brown -- to balance those rules with freedom of expression.