Sunday, July 12, 2015

My Letter to the Pensacola City Council and Mayor Hayward

The West Florida Flaggers will renew activity again soon, this time targeting the City of Pensacola as well as Escambia County.  Mere days after the tragedy in Charleston, SC., Mayor Ashton Hayward, in a fit of kneejerk emotionalism, removed the First National Flag of the Confederacy from the city's Five Flags displays -- and, in hamfisted homage to the idea of five flags, substituting the State of Florida Flag in the displays.

Unfortunately, I have been kept busy by the anti-Confederate tsunami sweeping the South, and by personal illness, but hope and plan to get our flaggings revived ASAP. More information coming about that in upcoming posts.

Meanwhile, here's my email to the mayor and city council, sent yesterday:
To Mayor Hayward
City of Pensacola

cc: The Pensacola City Council --
Andy Terhaar, Larry B. Johnson, P.C. Wu, Sherri F. Myers, Gerald Wingate,     Brian Spencer, Jewel Cannada-Wynn, Charles Bare   

Dear Mayor Hayward,

With your removal of the First National Flag of the Confederacy from the Five Flags displays, you have shown yourself to be an emotional reactionary, not a deliberativel leader. 

Without giving the situation time to stabilize, or finding out what your constituents wanted, you followed the lead of those across the country making callous political use of a tragedy to lie about history in the interest of protecting and promoting destructive contemporary policies. In so doing, you have aided the hysterical sweep across the South to wipe out anything Confederacy related, from flags to retail items to place names to monuments to smartphone apps. There are even calls to dig up graves and remove the remains of Confederate soldiers and officers. Do you approve of that? Your actions helped to bring it about.

And whether you intended to or not, you have painted many of your good, decent constituents who respect their history and heritage with a Dylann-Roof-colored brush. Shame. You ought to know your people better than that, and respect them enough to not mischaracterize them with your assumptions.

Since your precipitous action, tens of thousands of people across the Southern states have rallied in support of Confederate heritage almost daily, to show they will not let their brave Confederate ancestors be lied about, dishonored or forgotten. The rallies and parades continue today.

Significantly, a CNN poll has verified what heritage defenders have known for decades. A huge majority of Americans -- 57 percent -- do not see the Confederate flag as a racist emblem, but a symbol of Southern regional pride -- the same pride Pensacolians showed in their city's history and heritage, until their government attempted to remove it and foist off on them some plastic, artificial, soulless "world class upside city" substitute. It wouldn't surprise me if that 57% figure was higher in Pensacola.

This is nearly identical to a 2000 Gallup poll which found that 59% of Americans say the flag is more a symbol of Southern pride, and reflects similar percentages in polls by Scripps-Howard in Texas and The University of North Carolina's Southern Focus poll. People's regard for their history has not changed despite an ongoing campaign of denigration of the flag by the NAACP and fellow travelers, and the high-handed efforts of their local and state governments.

My major concern at this time is protection of the Confederate Memorial in Lee Square. I want the city's assurance that it will not cave to emotional reactionary demands to destroy or remove the monument. Leave it exactly where it is, and protect it from vandalism and attempts at destruction.

However, I maintain an intense interest in the flag situation. I want to see it revisited. The city's "solution" of putting a state flag in a display of national flags is, frankly, bizarre, reeks of political appeasement and mangles the very significance and purpose of the Five Flags displays. I would like to see the Five Flags restored to what they should be,  including the First National Flag of the Confederacy, the Stars and Bars.

It won't do any good, of course. Politicians across the country have drunk far too deeply of the P.C. koolaid and city hall down on Main Street is no exception.  But stronger talk is on the way.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rumblings of Resistance in Pensacola

On Monday, June 22, I called the office of Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward to discuss the whether the city had plans regarding the First National flag in the Five Flags displays, and to make certain the Confederate Memorial in Lee Square was protected from removal or destruction.

The receptionist said Hayward was at a mayors' conference, but she could have an aid call me. I said okay and left my number.

No call back the rest of that day. No call back the following day, so I called again on Wednesday and talked to Zack. He was evasive about the fate of the flag, said "they're discussing it now." I knew what that meant, so I registered with him my opinion that it should stay.

Then I asked about the Confederate monument.  He said he knew of no requests or plans to remove it but it seemed unlikely to happen because "it's granite, very heavy, and thirty feet high."

I asked, "So the only thing that protects it from being moved is its height and weight?"

He said he didn't know what policies or ordinances applied to it. So I registered my opinion that it needs to stay right where it is.

The next day, there were media reports that Mayor Hayward had ordered the flag to be lowered and replaced with the Florida flag, but the Five Flags displays were not to all come down. I guess he was remembering what happened a few months ago when the county removed all but the US flag from its Five Flags display at the civic center.

It was an illogical, emotion-based, bandwagon response, since the five flags are supposed to be the flags of nations that Pensacola has historically been a part of. The Florida state flag is not a national flag. Duh.

Since that time, I've followed the Great AntiConfederate Tsunami of 2015 online, both locally, across the South and across the nation. As there are in so many places, there are rumblings of resistance starting up in Pensacola. I have connected with others here, and we will be meeting to discuss how best to rev up the rumbling. Time and place for the meeting have been set, and we will discuss possible plans and responses.

I'll report more here and on Facebook as the situation develops.


Connie Chastain
West Florida Flaggers

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Future of the West Florida Flaggers

It's been a while since we updated our blog. By now, most everyone knows that the Escambia County Board of Commissioners voted to return the Five Flags display, with the  Stars and Bars representing the Confederacy, to the Pensacola Bay Center.

We are gratified, and thankful to the commissioners for honoring west Florida's unique and fascinating heritage.

Although we are no longer flagging regularly, we will periodically update the blog. Confederate heritage is still under attack across the land, and we will do what we can to defend and counter-attack, on behalf of our gallant ancestors who fought to defend home, family and community from a military invasion.

Check back periodically for updates.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Belated Flagging Report

Saturday's flagging (January 31) was one of the best yet, despite somewhat sparse foot traffic on the sidewalk.

We flagged with a First National and a battle flag, which proved to be great for illustration purposes ("The County Commissioners voted to take down all the historic flags except the US flag, just to remove that one..." indicating the the battle flag, "when all they had to do was replace it with this one," indicating the Stars and Bars. "That's what the city did fifteen years ago.")

For only the second time since we've been flagging, we had a passerby who disagreed and said no flags of the Confederacy should fly today. When he said, "It's associated with slavery and racism," and I said, "Well, that depends on who's doing the associating." He said most Americans associate it that way, and I replied that reputable polls indicate that most Americans have no opinion about it. He apparently didn't want to hear more, as he strolled away at that point.

(Google Images)
One young father pushing a baby carriage posed it next to one of the cannons in front of the courthouse, adjacent to the historic clock, and took several photos. Afterward, he came to us, curious about our presence in front of the county complex.

Using the two flags snapping in the breeze, we informed him about the county's recent decision. He asked what the two flags were, and which other flags had been removed. 

Whether a new resident or visitor, he was unfamiliar with the history of Pensacola, as it is illustrated by the Five Flags displays. He asked several questions about the countries that governed Pensacola during is history. I also gave him a quick recap of the city's decision back in the late 1940s to combine history and tourism in the Fiesta of Five Flags. He was very polite and thanked us, and wished us luck in getting the flags returned to the civic center display.

Another young man made a point of coming up to us to shake our hands and thank us for publicly supporting the area's history, heritage and tradition. He said he regretted that he had no cash on him to contribute to our effort, but we assured him his verbal support and encouragement were more than sufficient substitutes.

A senior lady from Milton, in next-door Santa Rosa County, said she wholeheartedly supports returning the flags to the display. She was very knowledgeable about area history, and wished us success in our efforts.

Due to inclement weather, there was no flagging on Wednesday, February 4, but Saturday looks great for a sojourn on the sidewalk! We encourage anyone who supports our city and county's history and heritage to join us from 1 to 3 at the corner of Palafox Place and Government Street. (On-street parking is free on Saturdays, folks!)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Flagging Report: An Interesting Video Interview

My day started at mid-morning. Spouse and I attended a fundraiser fish fry for a local school's softball team. Late January isn't softball season, and it was cold and windy for the game, but the fish, baked beans, cole slaw and hush puppies were delish, and fortified me for the afternoon's flagging.

Brilliant sunshine and a blue sky made for a great flagging backdrop, but foot traffic on lower Palafox was diminished somewhat, possibly due to the strong, chilly wind. Nevertheless, we had several passersby stop to take our hand-out and engage in brief chats.

As before, nobody agreed with the county's actions, and many did not understand the reason for the flag removal. "Except for political correctness," one gentleman offered, and we heartily agreed.

Our explanations went something like this. "They wanted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the display, but the French, British and Spanish flags all came down, as well.  It seems like overkill, especially when all that was necessary was to replace the battle flag with this one." This explanation usually brought forth questions as to what flag "this one" was.

"This is the First National flag of the Confederacy, called the Stars and Bars. This is the one used by the city in their Five Flags displays. We don't see any reason why the county can't use it, as well."

"I agree!" "Good luck," and "Hope you're successful!" were the kind of remarks we heard when our conversations ended and people went on their way.

We met a crew of four young men shooting video for a documentary that is to be put into a time capsule for future generations to view. Videos being shot around the country will be in competition for a spot in the time capsule, to be opened fifty years hence. The contest is being held in conjunction with the movie Interstellar, and the winning documentary will also be shown at the premier of that movie. 

They asked out our flagging, and I explained about the county's removal of the flags, and our support for Confederate heritage. "It is under attack. Most Southern culture is not under attack. Nobody's crusading against red beans and rice or magnolias. But Confederate heritage is the target of a campaign of political correctness."

One of the young men asked if I would like to be interviewed for the documentary, and I agreed. I was told I would have to sign a model release. I said I was familiar with model releases, as I used to shoot video and had to get signed releases from participants.

While one man operated the camera, another asked me questions, about ten in all.  It was an interesting experience. When the videotaping was over, they posed for a quick photo, I wished them luck with their documentary, they wished us luck with getting the flags returned, and went on their way.

The more we flag, the more convinced I am that the county made a critical error in removing the flags. I look forward to the day they are returned. In the meantime, we can use their mistake to educate folks about the Confederacy, and the unique heritage and legacy handed down by our civil war era ancestors.

Next flagging -- Wednesday, January 28, from 1 to 3.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Flagging Report: Lady Liberty (Two of Them!) Pay Us Visit

Good day on the sidewalk Wednesday -- several good conversations, people stopping to chat, to learn about Confederate flags, and to express their thoughts and feelings about the removal of four of the Five Flags from the Pensascola Bay Center.

Although we are flagging the county to encourage the return of the Five Flags with the First National "Stars and Bars" representing the Confederacy, we are a Confederate heritage group and we enjoy taking advantage of the opportunity to educate about other Confederate flags, and other aspects of the Confederacy and the War Between the States, as well

Thus, one West Florida Flagger brings his unique 1st and 3rd Florida Infantry Flag. Here's an image of the original, found on Wikipedia.

We did have a brief encounter with a gentleman who expressed disapproval of the Confederate battle flag, but we explained we aren't picketing to have it returned to the civic center display. We are ready to defend the battle flag from the ongoing campaign against it, but this particular issue in our city and county involves the display of national flags. Everyone else who stopped to chat and take one of our handouts were matter of fact in their support of returning the flags to their display.

More than once, the Virginia Flaggers have said, "Flagging is fun!" and so it is! Yesterday, a small group of middle school students visited the sidewalk on a field trip, made photos of the historic clock on the grounds of the Old Courthouse (and snapped a few photos of us) on their smart phones.

We were also visited by two lovely young Statues of Liberty giving away holders for soft drinks (some with candy inside!) advertising a tax return preparation service. They also would like to see the flags returned to their display on county property.

Rumor has it that the county commissioners have learned that we are here and we flag!

Next appointment on the sidewalk -- Saturday, January 24, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lee Jackson Day and Flagging on the Sidewalk

The West Florida Flaggers extend our thanks to Stephen R. Mallory Camp 1315, SCV, for inviting us to their Lee Jackson Banquet on Saturday, January 17.

Franco's Italian Restaurant was closed to the public for the event. A color guard in period attire presented the colors prior to the program, after which John Appleyard, a local historian, gave the gathering the fascinating backstory of General Lee prior to the war. At the end of the program, camp members with lighted candles stepped through the dining room, lighting the tea candles at each place setting, and attendees named their Confederate ancestor memoralized by the candles.

I'm no public speaker, even in a situation like that, and I mis-identifed my ancestor, Private Balus Brackett, Georgia, Infantry, as my gg-grandfather. In fact, he was a gg uncle. His outfit was Company I, 39th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, Army of Tennessee, C.S.A. Gilmer County, Georgia, "Gilmer Tigers #2" Joined the Confederate Army March 4, 1862. Fought in the Battle of Corinth, Miss, October 3-4, 1862

When the candle-lighting was over, I slipped out. I could possibly have stayed until the end of the event, as there wasn't much left on the program. But I had to get downtown to flag.

Lee and Jackson at the head table; larger pictures of the two great generals were on display in the restaurant entrance
Food, flags and fellowship.

Listening to the presentation on General Lee.
Lighting a candle and ringing a bell to remember brave Confederate ancestors.
It was the best day yet for flagging -- brilliant sunshine, little breeze and chilly, not cold, temps. But the best thing were a couple of conversations we had with people on the sidewalk.

One young fellow, a native of Louisiana who has lived in Pensacola the past seven years, was in adamant agreement that the county commission needed to restore the Five Flags at the civic center. We had a long conversation with him and found a lot of common ground. He thinks the loss of tradition and heritage in the U.S. accompanies the diminishing of freedom.

We also had an interesting conversation with a trio of seniors who were strongly in support of restoring the flags. Like so many people, their reasoning was, "It's our history." They listened when we explained that, while we are primarily a Confederate heritage advocates, in this case, we support the restoration of all the historic flags.

The gentleman took one of our hand-outs and thanked us, and he and one of the women accompanying him strolled down the street, but the other woman stayed to chat with us a bit longer. She was unfamiliar with the First National, and seemed fascinated to learn about the three national flags of the CSA.

I'm truly surprised by the amount of support for returning the Five Flags to the civic center, and the interest in Confederate history.

Connie Chastain
West Florida Flaggers

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Flagging Report: Flagging Without Hand-outs

Flagging -- without handouts. (Photo by S.H.)
It was a good day for flagging, if a bit chilly -- but opportunities were missed because I forgot to bring our hand-outs! 

Nevertheless, we interacted with passers-by, informing them we were flagging the county commissioners to urge them to return the historic Five Flags to the Pensacola Bay Center.

One lady pointed to my flag and said, "I don't recognize that."

"It's the First National flag of the Confederacy."

"Oh, that's interesting!"

Another gentleman told us what flag I was displaying: "That's the First Flag of the Confederate States."

"Yes, sir, the Stars and Bars."

"There were two others after that one."

"The Stainless Banner and the Third National."

"When you say Confederate flag, a lot of people think of the flag on the roof of the General Lee. But that was a battle flag."

"Yes, the soldiers' flag."

After a bit more chatting in the same vein, he wished us well and continued on his way.

Another lady, when told about the flags removed from the Pensacola Bay Center, said, "Oh, that's right, I heard about that." She said she didn't understand why the commissioners removed the flags.

One man said the people should vote on whether to return the flags. This echoed parts of a very interesting and informative "Viewpoint" letter to the editor by Christopher J. Lewis that appeared recently in the Pensacola News Journal:

As before, everyone we encountered on the sidewalk was cordial and motorists and their passengers often gave us friendly waves.

Next flagging is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, January 17 -- with hand-outs this time.

Connie Chastain      
West Florida Flaggers      

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Flagging Report: Saturday on the Sidewalk

It wasn't as cold or bright as our last flagging, but an occasional breeze brought our flags to life several times during the afternoon.

Foot traffic on the sidewalk was pretty busy. A few passersby were visitors to the city, and we welcomed them and hoped they enjoyed their visits. Locals ran the gamut -- many lively seniors headed for the coffee shops and cafes north and south of our position in front of the Old Courthouse. Not as many young folks, but still quite a few -- and more than half a dozen canines of all sizes, shapes, colors and types of fur.

Auby Smith, Commander, Stephen Mallory Camp 1315, SCV
When the opportunity presented itself, we explained, "We're picketing the county to return the Five Flags to the civic center. Can't have the City of Five Flags without them!" Responses ranged from tilted heads and comments like, "I think I remember reading about that," to enthusiastic nods of agreement. "It's our history!"

Almost an hour into the flagging, Auby Smith, Commander of the Stephen R. Mallory Camp 1315, Sons of Confederate Veterans, stopped by to thank us and to invite us to the camp's upcoming Lee Jackson dinner.

It was a pleasure to meet and talk with him and we look forward to a great relationship with the Camp.

All of the people we encountered -- visitors and locals alike -- were friendly and we were glad so many were familiar with the county flag-removal issue. Hopefully, as we continue flagging, we will acquiant more people not only with the current flag issue, but with Pensacola's Confederate history and the soldiers who fought so valiantly and gave so much to defend their homes, families and communities, and their new nation.

Connie Chastain      
West Florida Flaggers      

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Flagging Report: Clear and Brisk in the Sunshine State

Two intrepid flaggers from Pensacola braved the wind slicing down Palafox Place to stand with flags snapping in front of the old county courthouse complex on Wednesday, January 7.

The sky was a beautiful, cloudless backdrop for the flags, the sunshine bright, and when the wind wasn't blowing the chill abated considerably.

I was surprised that the area wasn't as busy as it was on Christmas Eve.  While we got a few waves from passing motorists, the sidewalk actually seemed busier, with people strolling by at a leisurely pace.

"Hi. Y'all live in Pensacola?"

The majority of the time, the answer to that question was, "No."

"In that case, you enjoy your visit!"


A few local people, though, paused to chat with us about the county's removal of the historic five flags from the Pensacola Bay Center. The consensus was that the county commission's actions were overkill, and a show of disrespect for the city's history.

We heard "political correctness" in these conversations more than once.

One young man from Pensacola but not currently residing here, said his family's residence in the city goes back a couple of generations, and he feels a great connection to the city's history.

We have yet to hear anyone say they agree with the county's move.

If you reside in the area, or are planning to visit and would like to send a message to the county commissioners to return the flags, visit our Facebook page for info on flagging dates and times.

Connie Chastain        
West Florida Flaggers