Confederate flag to hang at Belleview City Hall

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Volunteers on Wednesday will raise a version of the Confederate Flag in front of Belleview City Hall.

City leaders said they’ve allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans to raise the flag on Confederate History Day for more than a decade now. Members of the group hold a ceremony at about 7:30 am and the flag flies from sun up till sun down; for one day only.

Local Sons of Confederate Veterans leader Chuck Kadel said many of the citizens of Belleview and of Marion County have roots that include Confederate soldiers, and the symbol is met to honor those soldiers.

"They fought for their homes and their lands that were being invaded by northern armies,” said Kadel.

So Kadel raises the Third Confederate National Flag, also known as the Blood Stained Banner to recognize the holiday.

In recent years though Confederate symbols have become more of a point of controversy leading more communities, especially government organizations to remove them from their buildings.  

Francine Edwards’s group Bridges Project Ocala has worked the last few years to open dialogue on race issues and education throughout Marion County. Edwards was instrumental in efforts to remove Confederate Flags at other Marion County buildings, calling it a symbol of oppression, and she said learning of the Belleview tradition feels like a step backwards.

"If we had known that was their intentions we would have definitely packed the meeting and opposed it,” said Edwards.

Belleview Mayor Christine Dobkowski said Tuesday that this is the first time since she’s been mayor that opposition to the tradition has been raised.

"It was important to them [the Sons of Confederate Veterans] and no one has ever lodged a complaint or came to our meetings and spoke up,” she said.

Dobkowski said staff has informally discussed moving the yearly flag posting to a different location like a local cemetery where Confederate soldiers lie, but those discussions have never gone into formal meeting. She said if opposition is raised in the future the city will be open to discussion on the matter.