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FRIDAY, Aug. 9 — The Stars and Bars may have made their last stand at the Ingham County Fair.
County Commissioners Thomas Morgan and Derrell Slaughter are seeking a county ordinance that would bar the sale of Confederate memorabilia along with other symbols that stoke ethnic hatred, such as swastikas and white power symbols.
“I was at the fair and saw the table with the various Confederate flag trash,” Morgan said. “We are seeing the rise of white nationalism across the country led by our president. We can’t give any quarter to these people.”
The fair closed Sunday, which is when Morgan noticed the flags and promised action against the flag on Facebook, a post that generated dozens of comments.
Morgan said it’s not a free-speech issue. He supports the right of anyone to wear a Confederate flag shirt “and look like an idiot.” But fair vendors pay the county to sell their wares at the county event, and therefore the county has indirectly profited from the sale of “hate symbols.”
This year’s county fair was the first as commissioners for Slaughter, an African-American, and Morgan, who is white.
“This is a symbol of hate, and I don’t want it there,” Slaughter said. “My standard for the fair is to provide a good time for families.”
The commissioners said they were speaking with county attorneys to carefully word the ordinance to bar Confederate schwag without setting the county up for litigation. Morgan said the vendor hawking Confederate stuff could still sell other items, such as shirts and towels celebrating legal marijuana.
The Confederate battle flag’s appearance is ironic given Michigan’s history as a free state. The Capitol grounds feature historic plaques with fiery abolitionist rhetoric.
Confederate memorabilia is already not allowed at the Michigan State Fair. Nor is it allowed at the Indiana, Illinois or Ohio state fairs.
“We don’t allow anything that’s degrading or disrespectful,” said Steve Masters, the executive director of the Michigan State Fair. “We reserve the right to eliminate items.”
Masters said his event goes further than the Ingham commissioners’ proposal and seeks to censor anything derogatory or would work against the fair’s reputation as a family-friendly event. That would include T-shirts with vulgar language or lewd images of women.
The Michigan State Fair scheduled over Labor Day Weekend in Novi in Oakland County from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2.