Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate stirs controversy

‘Fighting flag’ adopted as new design

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NORTH FULTON — A new car license plate is stirring up old wounds, but Sons of Confederate Veterans say it’s a just a celebration of their Southern heritage.

At the beginning of February, the state Department of Revenue's Motor Vehicle Division approved the new license plate designed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and made it available to all Georgians.

The license plate, as described in a statement released by the group, features, “a beautiful Confederate battle flag image in the background,” which covers the full expanse of the plate.

The design is a choice available to all Georgia motorists renewing or applying for a tag, and $10 of the tag’s fee goes to the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The group’s release regarding the plate design also states the money received from these fees will go towards cleaning and preserving monuments and statues and the production of educational literature and posters.

“All people should have the right to celebrate their history and heritage,” said Ray McBerry, spokesman for the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, when asked about the criticism the plate received.

“We find it ironic— and hypocritical— that those who have publicly bemoaned our celebration of Southern Heritage are in fact celebrating their own history and heritage in the month of February,”McBerry continued. “The idea that someone would feel that they have a right to publicly celebrate their own history and heritage, but that others should not be allowed to is hypocritical at best.”

Maynard Eaton, spokesperson for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference disagreed.

“To display this is reprehensible,” Eaton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We don’t have license plates saying ‘Black Power.’”

The Georgia state flag featured the Confederate battle flag from 1956 to 2001, but was changed due to mounting criticisms sparked when Atlanta hosted the Olympics of 1996.

“The Confederate battle flag is first and foremost a symbol of the Southern soldier who was forced into a war to prevent the invasion of his home,” McBerry said. “The Sons of Confederate Veterans is not a racially exclusive organization; we have members who are white, black, Hispanic, and Jewish — a reflection of the population of the South at the time of the War.”