RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Flaggers condemned Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s decision to order the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the Sons of Confederate Veterans state sponsored vanity license plate. The governor made the announcement Tuesday morning.
“This Commonwealth does not support the display of the Confederate battle flag or the message it sends to the rest of the world,” McAuliffe said in a statement. The Flaggers called the governor’s action a “decision to stir up this controversy.”
“The license plates were made available at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and have been in use with no issues for 12 years,” Flaggers spokesman Grayson Jennings wrote in an email. “The organization is made up of citizens of the Commonwealth who can trace their lineage directly to an ancestor who was a Veteran of the Confederate Armed Forces. Members work, live, and worship every day alongside men and women of every race, creed, and color, and there have been no reported incidents of anyone being harmed by the license plates, or any disturbances caused by their use.”
Jennings continued by calling McAuliffe’s action politically motivated.
“Governor McAuliffe’s decision to stir up this controversy, and his insistence on exploiting the tragedy in South Carolina for his own political aspirations… will serve to divide the Commonwealth, and create strife and dissension where none existed,” he wrote. “We call on the Governor to retract this divisive proposal, end the discriminatory assault against Virginia’s rich Confederate history and heritage, and allow all of the Commonwealth’s citizens the opportunity to honor their ancestors, heritage, and celebrate their culture without prejudice.”
The governor’s announcement came in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state of Texas was allowed to reject a license plate design that featured a Confederate battle flag and the removal of the flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds following last week’s fatal shootings at am African-American church in Charleston.
McAuliffe said he has asked the Attorney General’s office to “take steps to reverse the prior Court ruling that requires the Confederate flag be placed on state license plates.” He also told the Secretary of Transportation to “develop a plan for replacing the currently-issued plates as quickly as possible.”
There are currently 1,594 Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates in Virginia, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV was not yet clear on what to tell drivers who currently use the plate that displays the Confederate flag.