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Cumberland removes Confederate battle flag


CUMBERLAND -- A Confederate battle flag was removed from City Hall last night after officials here agreed that a museum was a more appropriate place for the controversial banner.

The Allegany County chapter of the NAACP last month asked the City Council and mayor to remove the Confederate flag from display because of its association with hatred and racism.

"The Confederate battle flag's use by people who espouse the inferiority of others because of skin color or religion continues today," said Councilman Floyd "Pete" Elliott, reading a prepared statement.

"When we see the Confederate flag in use today, all too frequently it is a symbol of organized groups that spread intolerance and hatred."

Gary E. Beckward, vice president of the Allegany chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, last night said only, "They removed the flag. That's what we wanted."

The flag was one of 11 banners hanging from a second-floor balcony in the City Hall rotunda. The banners represent flags that have flown over Cumberland during its history.

The Confederate banner flew over Cumberland for a few hours in 1863 -- during a brief Confederate invasion, city officials said.

The flag had been on display for about 20 years but only recently drew complaints from the NAACP.

Not everyone agreed with the council's decision.

"It's not a matter of race, it's a matter of my ancestors," said Mark Jones, a Cumberland resident who is a member of the Maryland division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"When I look at that flag I don't see black or white. I see history," he added.

Mr. Jones said his forebears fought in several Civil War battles in Virginia. He has worked in recent years to mark their graves with tombstones.

"The flag means something to me for their sakes," he said.

Mr. Elliott said officials will seek permission to have the flag displayed at the Allegany County History House.

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