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Oregon officials vote to ban Confederate flag at historic cemeteries

Oregon officials vote to ban Confederate flag at historic cemeteries
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An Oregon state commission has unanimously voted to ban Confederate flags from the state’s historic cemeteries. 

Oregon’s Commission on Historic Cemeteries (OCHC) voted Friday to adopt a position paper recommending that Confederate flags not be displayed at historic cemeteries, including flying the flag on poles or with small flags placed on individual graves.

“Oregon does not have cemeteries specific to the Confederacy, as exist in other states,” the paper reads. 

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“The Confederate flag is a symbol of treason, oppression, racism, and dishonor to the USA,” the paper continues. “It is the flag of the enemy of the USA. And over the decades since the US Civil War [it] has become a symbol that makes many people feel unwelcome and unsafe.”

“We do not support allowing flags in historic cemeteries that promote systemic racism, fear, and oppression of anyone,” the commission concluded in the paper. “It is extremely important that historic cemeteries are maintained as places where the visitors feel safe and welcome.”

The commission also recommended that when decorating a Confederate soldier’s grave on Memorial Day, families should opt for a United States flag or flowers in place of a Confederate flag. 

However, NBC’s Portland affiliate, KOIN, reported that chairperson Bev Power said during Friday’s meeting that the position paper is largely symbolic, as the commission is not able to punish cemeteries for not adhering to the policy. 

“It’s not law, you’re not going to be fined, you’re not going to be denied any grant applications or anything based on whether or not you agree and follow the position we take or not,” Power said.

According to the Portland Tribune, while Oregon does not have Confederacy-specific cemeteries, there are about 60 veterans of the Confederate forces buried across more than two dozen of the 1,500 historic cemeteries in Oregon. 

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A cemetery must have at least one buried person who died before Feb. 14, 1909 — 50 years after Oregon became a state — to be considered historic, according to KOIN. 

The Oregon commission’s vote comes as monuments and other relics honoring the Confederacy have been removed amid calls for racial justice and an end to police brutality following the police killings of Black people, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd

In August, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that more than 50 Confederate monuments across the country had been removed since Floyd’s death in May. 

In June, Mississippi lawmakers voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, with a new flag design set to go before voters for approval on Election Day next week.