HOMESTEAD _ A handful of Confederate flag wavers who wanted to participate in Wednesday’s Veterans Day parade were relegated instead to spectators on the sidelines.
“This is a great day, but also a sad one,” said Gary Kalof, commander of a Sons of Confederate Veterans camp in Miami-Dade County. He watched the parade from a sidewalk.
“This is what the NAACP wanted, for us to be banned,’’ Kalof said. “They wanted to divide this community, which is what they always do.”
Dressed in clothing with Confederate battle flag designs on them, four members of two different Confederate states organizations; the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Southern MC [a Confederate motorcycle club] stood in one location, waving their flags.
Banned from participating in the parade procession, the men gathered in a single location along the parade route.
“The parade is great, and I don’t think anyone ever doubted it would be,” Southern MC member James Myers said. “We’re all Americans, and it’s just sad to see a veterans organization banned from a parade in this country.”
Other people who watched the parade had a different reaction.
“This is absolutely great! It’s the most dignified Veterans Day parade I’ve seen in Homestead, and I’ve seen many,” said Rosemary Fuller.
Pat Mellerson, a local business owner, expressed similar views.
“It was a very nice family event, and we look forward to many more,” Mellerson said.
Fuller and Mellerson are the two women who expressed outrage at seeing the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) in last’s year’s parade. The next day, they began a successful effort to have the groups and their flags banned from future events. The Miami-Dade NAACP joined their efforts to ban the flag from the parade and other publically sanctioned events.
In the process, they galvanized widespread support from a cross-section of the community in a movement that also saw four Homestead city council members defeated in last week’s municipal elections here.
“This is what we wanted. Respect for others’ feelings, and now we have it,” Mellerson said.
This year’s parade included over 30 organizations, including school bands. Fuller, a regular attendee of the parades, said it was about a quarter of the usual number of floats and organizations, and attributed this directly to the flag controversy.
“Who wants to come to an event where all of this nonsense is going on?” Fuller asked over the blare of police sirens and marching bands. “There are some people who wanted to kill the parade, instead of telling the Confederates now way, but the people spoke, and this just great.”
The Boy Scouts of America did not participate due to the flag controversy, which was not resolved in time for the organization to reconsider. However, a local troop did lead the pledge of allegiance, and stood next to the grand stand during the parade.
The controversy first began during last year’s parade when some black residents expressed outrage at seeing people dressed in Confederate soldier’s uniforms, marching and displaying Confederate battle flags.
Some people associate the Confederate flag with slavery, lynching, and racism. Others view it as a symbol of southern heritage, pride and that of a patriotic veteran’s group.
Mellerson and Fuller said they accomplished their goal, but will continue monitoring the parade and other public events to make sure the ban is not lifted.
“We made sure we stayed until the end of the parade, to make sure no one would try to pull anything, and this is what we will do throughout the year,” Mellerson said.
Photo by Elgin Jone/SFT Staff. Pictured above, from left to right, are Williams Patterson, Gary Kaloff and John Edge.