HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s governor had a Confederate flag removed from a Flag Day exhibit in the state Capitol on Wednesday after the chairwoman of the black legislators’ caucus took it down and it was subsequently restored to the display.
Gov. Tom Wolf acted after learning of the dispute over a Confederate battle flag reproduction that’s part of a historical society collection in Hanover.
“The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and hatred and he doesn’t think it should be displayed in a state building,” said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for the Democratic governor.
Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Philadelphia, said she was astonished to see the reproduction of an 1863 Confederate battle flag as she walked through the Capitol’s east wing on Tuesday.
“I just did what I thought was right and I took the flag down,” said Brown, who heads the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.
She carried it into the House chambers and gave it to Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.
Organizers and volunteers with the exhibit, sponsored by the Hanover Area Historical Society, realized it was missing when they assembled for a ceremony to mark the exhibit, which was produced to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Flag Day. They summoned Capitol police, who recovered it from Turzai’s office.
“She had no right to do it without going through proper channels, given her position,” said Debra Markle, a historical society board member. “She knows what protocol is, and that was not protocol.”
The exhibit organizers returned it to the display by indoor fountains before Wolf ordered its removal.
Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams, who helped bring the exhibit to the Capitol, said Wolf should reconsider his decision.
“When you take something that doesn’t belong to you, that’s an issue, whether you like it or not,” Moul said. “What’s next? Somebody doesn’t like one of the statutes in here and they take it down on their own?”
Markle said she’s not sure where the flag ended up.
Brown took down an 1863 “southern cross” flag described as an Army of Tennessee battle flag. Two other Confederate flag reproductions from 1861, a “stars and bars” and the Mississippi succession flag, also disappeared from the exhibit.
Markle said the 50 flags on display were also exhibited in 1966 in the U.S. and Pennsylvania capitols.
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