Pro-Confederate Protesters in Richmond Rally in Support of the Flag

In addition to mounting flags on highways, the 'Virginia Flaggers' also gather every week to protest a museum that doesn't share their fondness for the Confederacy.

Jamelle Bouie

Over the summer, I wrote about the Virginia Flaggers, a “Southern Heritage” group that had a (successful) plan to erect a large Confederate flag just south of Richmond, on Interstate 95.

In general, the group—which celebrated its second birthday this September—works to “honor the Confederate soldier” in any way possible, including parades, rallies, and protests. So far—according to the group—they have demonstrated against a reception at the Virginia Governor’s mansion celebrating the film Lincoln, rallied against a “Lincoln Day” bill in the General Assembly, petitioned the Lexington City Council for a “Lee-Jackson Day” proclamation, and attacked a legislative proposal to create a “Virginia Slave Commission” dedicated to studying the state’s role in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

In other words, the usual activities of a neo-Confederate group.

What’s more, every Saturday, a group of Flaggers sits in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond to protest the removal of the flag from the Confederate Memorial Chapel. I walked by the Flaggers this afternoon while running an errand, and after taking a few pictures, stopped to chat with the seven protesters (four older white men, one younger white man, one older white woman, one younger black woman), who were enjoying the sun, the warm weather, and the “righteousness” of their cause.

“A couple years back, the museum got a new director from up north who didn’t know the real history of what happened here,” said Jimmy, one of the older white men who stood waving the largest flag on display, “He removed the flag in violation of the law, and we’re hoping the Court rules against him.”

He handed me a flyer, which explained his complaint in detail. [I]t is against Virginia law to “disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials so erected,’ which includes ”removal of, damaging, or defacing…the placement of Union markings or monuments on previously designated Confederate memorials," or vice versa. For the Flaggers, removing the rebel flag is tantamount to defacing the chapel, and so, they protest.

In most cities—even in the South—this display would inspire complaints and counter-protest. Indeed, when I mentioned that this would look out of place in my hometown of Virginia Beach, Jimmy told me that “There are plenty of Flaggers in the Beach, they’re just afraid to go public.”

Given the number of Confederate flags that flew at my high school, I’m sure he’s right. Still, there was something a little jarring about the confidence he felt flying the flag of traitors. Then again, it’s not hard to be an emboldened Confederate sympathizer in a city that boasts a Confederate war museum, a memorial chapel, and massive statues commemorating Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, and Jefferson Davis.

I spoke with the African American Flagger as well, but she was more interested in talking politics than flags. And on that note, she was excited for Ken Cuccinelli’s upcoming rally with former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. “I’m a big Ron Paul supporter,” she explained.

Before I left, she asked if I could take a picture and send it to her. “I don’t think I photograph well,” she said, standing with her flag. I took the photo and immediately noticed a nearby sign, which said “Honk If You Love This Flag.”

Right at that moment, a young white man in a charcoal-grey SUV drove by. He honked.