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Commissioners want Confederate flag surrendered at Ingham County Fair

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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. 

Comments

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Doug

This is always attacked from the current meaning of these items, but can we just talk about how practically bizarre it is to see this flag this far north? Do we forget 90,000 Michiganders served in the Union Army; that the Michigan Brigade (the mighty "Wolverines") served under Brigadier General George A. Custer at Gettysburg?

Michigan literally fought so that it wouldn't have to ever see the treasonous flag, agian. Forget the "hate" for a second; it literally makes no sense to be selling this crap up here, let alone at the Ingham County Fair. Come on, folks.

Friday, August 9
Tyler

Its unfortunate how little local history is taught in our schools. Confederate symbols and ideology are offensive for many reasons to real Michiganders and have no place at a local family event. I do find it unfortunate the fair was practically over before it was noticed by the commissioners, but am excited they are taking steps to correct the issue.

I honestly don't understand the sentiment to cherish and propagate any symbols from the confederate era. It was a dark chapter in American history. I can understand cherishing the memory of your fallen ancestors but you do not need these offensive symbols to do that. It's no better than erecting a statue in the middle of town square of a convicted child molester. Go ahead and cherish your fore bearers in private but don't force the rest of us to do so.

Saturday, August 10
Karen M St John

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.

Glory, Glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on.

Yup, we Yankees, and the Lost Cause snowflakes have been crying ever since.

Saturday, August 10
Mark Grebner - Ingham County Commissioner, District 8

Is there room for reality to intrude on this conversation?

There's a very big First Amendment problem here. That's because what is being proposed is that the government (in the form of the County Board of Commissioners) should declare that one side is right and the other is wrong. Of course, the Confederacy IS wrong, and a horrible war was fought to prove it. But that's for private individuals (or corporations) to say, and not for the government.

The specific legal problem is that if we simply outlaw Confederate paraphernalia, we'll get sued. And when we lose, we'll get stuck paying attorney fees, because the statute that will be applied (called Section 1983) allows for the court to order us to pay their attorneys. That's exactly the series of events that has tormented East Lansing, ever since they tried to kick an anti-gay farmer out of their farmer's market. The guy probably sells $100 worth of apples on a good Sunday. But East Lansing is on the hook for $200,000 - and counting.

Anything the Board ends up doing will have to be very general, such as applying to ALL war memorabilia, and even that may not be legally safe. Articles like this one, quoting specific Commissioners taking positions which are clearly beyond our legal powers, will further reduce our room to maneuver.

I wonder - did the First Amendment become unpopular?

Sunday, August 11
Doug

What a ridiculous academic argument, Mark, but it's not surprising coming from you. The article literally states that this stuff isn't allowed to be sold at multiple state fairs in the region, including. This vendor can sell it anywhere else they want to, they just aren't going to be able to do it at the state fair.

The Confedercy got off easy when we didn't hang all of their generals and leaders; it was a mistake. To say that the Ingham County Fair has to allow thie vendor on First Amendment grounds is a specious argument if I ever saw one. No, this vendor doesn't have a constitutional right to peddle his racist wares at the Ingham County State Fair. But you keep concern trolling these issues.

Sunday, August 11
Tyler

Hello Mark. I do understand your viewpoint but in most cases the 1st amendment does not protect forms of speech that are hate speech, incite violence, or support terrorism. You could make a case that the Confederate Battle Flag does all three. This gray area is a matter of public opinion and in most cases is voted as no its not protected. Had the vendor been selling normal T-shirts and had been simply wearing Confederate memorabilia the public opinion may be swayed toward protected. I would say selling Confederate memorabilia would be in support of terrorism, especially with the back to back mass shootings last weekend and several threats that have been made publicly on Facebook that have led to two arrests this last week. The ideology of the Confederate era certainly does incite violence and selling it at a county fair is certainly in support of terrorism.

Sunday, August 11
Charlie

If you live or are from the south, the Confederate flag is a symbol of heritage. I personally have the flag flying at this moment. Heritage not hate is what the flag means to me. The comments on this article about the flag are so one-sided filled with hate, racism, and bigotry. You sound as though you want to take away our First Amendment rights completely. Every kind of flag you can think of is flown in this country. When are you going after the rainbow flag or BLM? Or any other flags out there? Hell go for a ban on any type of flag in this nation. If you are going to ban a flag do all. You guys are a trip. So close-minded about our history, our monuments and now our flag. It's a damn shame that your bigoted racist hate-filled hearts have gotten to this point. Doug in particular. You definitely need a mental health exam to see if you have any common sense. It's the people like you that are running this country in the dirt acting as though you control everything with a Nazi grip, taking things to the point that you alone decide what can or can't be said, shown, or discussed. I pray for you and feel pity for you. Rebel Pride!!!

Sunday, August 11
Tyler

What heritage are you referring to Charlie? When you fly the Bars and Stars you aren't simply showing your pride in your heritage. When you fly the flag you have to take into consideration everything the flag stood for and the ideology the people who fought a civil war was for. It may be simple for you but it has way more meaning and hateful undertones attributed to it. No one here is discussing violating your first amendment right to fly the flag at home or on your personal body. What we are discussing is selling these items in a public venue that is intended to provide joy and entertainment to families. When a person of color sees this symbol they visualize someone who would rather own them in chains. When Northerners see this flag it shows a man who would rather kill their fellow man than discuss and move forward for change. When you freely state Rebel yell you have to remember why confederates were rebelling. Is that the heritage you are proud of? It's as I already said, cherish your heritage but don't force the rest of us to do it, too.

Sunday, August 11

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