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PoP's Southern American: VMFA & The Right to Honor Confederate Ancestors

1/14/2013

VMFA & The Right to Honor Confederate Ancestors

On January 12th, 1908, Richard Elam was admitted as a resident to the Old Soldiers Home on the Boulevard in Richmond, Virginia, homeless and with no means of support. Private Elam had served with the 6th Va Infantry, Co. K in the War Between the States and was taken prisoner by the enemy at Petersburg.

He was but 12 years old when he entered the Confederate Army and fought to defend Virginia.

105 years later, January 12th, 2013, his cousin, TriPp Lewis decided to take the opportunity to honor the anniversary of his arrival on those same grounds, now designated perpetually as "Confederate Memorial Park".

Immediately upon stepping onto the grounds, Mr. Lewis was approached by a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) Security Guard, who told him to leave the property. Mr. Lewis explained that he was there as a Virginia citizen to honor his ancestor who had lived and died on the property. After some discussion, and when he attempted to leave the property and return to the public sidewalk, Mr. Lewis was arrested by museum security guards. He was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and released immediately on his own recognizance.

While the Virginia Flaggers have always engaged in peaceful protests, and followed all legal directives by authorities, we will not stand idly by while others are bullied or illegally harassed. Although Mr. Lewis was acting as a private citizen in this instance, we offer him our full support and will stand by him in his defense of these unfair and unreasonable charges.

We know that there were only the most honorable intentions of one man and his children... to honor their ancestor on the hallowed grounds of the park, and it is apparent that museum officials were determined to make an example of him, in the presence of his children.

Nevertheless, the forthcoming legal proceedings will offer us the chance to challenge the arbitrary and ever-changing restrictions placed on the Flaggers by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and allow a court of law to decide the constitutionality of restricting the display of a Confederate Flag on Virginia State Property, specifically designated as "Confederate Memorial Park".

It will also allow us the opportunity to further expose the discriminatory and illegal act of the forced removal of Confederate flags from the portico of the Confederate Memorial Chapel and give us grounds to introduce this evidence into the public record via court proceedings and legal filings.

Now is the time for VMFA officials to recognize that there would be no Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, but for the generosity of the men of the Robert E. Lee Camp #1, United Confederate Veterans, who put their faith and trust in the Commonwealth that sent them to war....the same Commonwealth who now desecrates the Confederate Memorial Chapel, and threatens, intimidates, and arrests descendants of Confederate veterans who wish to honor their ancestors by carrying a Confederate flag on the very same grounds built by Confederate Veterans.

-Grayson Jennings, Va Flaggers




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