A southern Minnesota volunteer firefighter flew a Confederate battle flag off the back of the fire truck he was driving in a 4th of July parade and has been suspended.
Brian Nielson said he had been with the department for about 10 years and flew the flag because he was fed up with political correctness that was “taking things out of history.”
My view is that PC is going too far taking things out of history,” Nielsen said. “It has nothing to do with slavery. I don’t see color, black or white. We’re all equal.”
Randy Kehr, the chamber’s executive director said, “My personal view is that it was unfortunate” that the Confederate flag was flown in the parade. “Certainly, it’s within their right. It’s a difficult situation. … It’s a part of history. It truly is.”
Kehr said he didn’t know ahead of time that the Southern flag would be flown, and if he had, “I would probably have asked [Nielsen] respectfully not to fly it.”
Nielsen said the Confederate flag’s display was his decision alone and he did not think he needed his department’s approval.
“I didn’t think it would bring this much attention,” he said. “I just wanted to stand up and say that PC is not right all the time. They’re actually not right most of the time.”
Before the parade, Nielsen said, a woman wearing a DFL patch on her shirt came up to him and criticized him for having the Confederate flag on the truck. Otherwise, he added, “there were some people who stood up and clapped” as the truck went by with the two flags side by side.
Parade rules distributed to entrants say “all vehicles … must be decorated in either a patriotic theme or according to the parade theme.” This year’s theme: “Teaming Up for America.”
Kehr chuckled a bit and acknowledged that the Hartland fire truck was “probably not” in compliance.
During the community’s fireworks Saturday night, Kehr said, he heard nothing about the Confederate flag flying in the parade.
“I think in about two days it will essentially be forgotten,” he said.
The department is overreacting to what amounts to a free speech issue. Simply put, there is more than one interpretation of what the battle flag represents and to embrace the notion that anyone who disagrees with the minority viewpoint that the battle flag represents racism should be fired is tantamount to violating free speech.