HOMESTEAD _ Civil rights groups on Thursday put city and business leaders in Homestead on a 30-day notice that unless they meet a list of demands – including a ban on the display of the Confederate flag at taxpayer-funded events – they will be subjected to protests and boycotts.
More than 100 people converged on the steps of Homestead City Hall for a press conference organized by clerical, civil rights and community groups who submitted the list of demands.
“We are ready to talk with the city of Homestead and the Homestead Chamber of Commerce concerning our action items,’’ said Bishop Victor T. Curry, president of the Miami-Dade County branch of NAACP. “And our issues are with them, and not with the Sons of the Confederacy. If the Sons of the Confederacy want to have their own parade, we are not trying to stifle freedom of speech or freedom of expression. We just don’t want to see racism walking down the streets of
The controversy dates back to the 2008 Veterans Day Parade in the city, which was organized by the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce. The chamber allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans to march and display the Confederate battle flag in the procession.
Some Americans are adamant the Confederate flag represents violence and is a reminder of slavery. Supporters insist it is a symbol of their southern heritage and pride.
Homestead officials say they had no say in the parade because it was organized by the chamber’s Military Affairs Committee, and the city only provided in-kind and logistical support. Therefore, city officials said, they had no say in who is allowed to participate in the event.
Chamber of Commerce officials say it is a matter of freedom of speech, and they would not ban the groups from marching in future parades.
At Thursday’s press conference, the coalition of organizations issued a six-point ultimatum and a 30-day deadline for those conditions to be met, or the city could face protests and economic boycotts of local businesses.
The demands on the list are:
- An apology from Mayor Lynda Bell and city officials over their handling of the issue
- For the city to rescind its vote to dissolve the advisory Human Relations Board, which initiated the challenge to the Confederate flag
- For city officials to meet with coalition members to discuss other concerns
- For Chamber of Commerce representatives to meet with the coalition to discuss their concerns
- To have the city adopt the guidelines for parades that were compiled by the Human Relations Board.
- For the Chamber of Commerce to restrict all flags in its events to official local, state and national flags.
None of the city of Chamber officials, including Bell, attended the press conference and none could be reached for comment.
During the press conference, Curry said that Bell canceled a meeting that was scheduled to take place with the coalition and city officials immediately after the press conference. He said she canceled the meeting because of her objections to having former members of the Human Relations Board in the meeting.
Curry warned that if the demands are not met by the 30-day deadline, the controversy will escalate to another level.
“We want the mayor and the council, and the chamber, to do the right thing,’’ Curry said. “We hope that we could start this with a positive dialogue. But we’re also ready to move from dialogue to demonstration.’’
Curry continued: “We are also prepared to say to the businesses that support the chamber, that if you want to offend the people of this great county and community, then we will seek other places to spend our dollars. We will not pay you to offend us.”