Southern heritage group fights to keep battle flag on license plates

FILE This Thursday May 2, 2002 file photo shows a sample of the Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty Virginia state license plate in Richmond, Va. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday, June 23, 2015 that he's moving to have the Confederate flag banished from state license plates in the wake of a massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Mark Gormus/Richmond Times Dispatch via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A southern heritage group says it is going to federal court to keep the confederate battle flag on Virginia license plates.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans want to stop the state from wiping the flag’s image off of the plates. In June, Governor Terry McAuliffe called the flag “unnecessarily divisive and hurtful.” As attitudes turn against the flag, some say the SCV is fighting a losing battle.

Dexter Oliver is a longtime member of Virginia’s division of the group. He says several of his ancestors served in the war. “their blood is on the soil of the state of Virginia.”

On July 9, the Virginia division of Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a response to a motion from attorney general Mark Herring, who called on the state to abandon a 2001 court order that allowed the confederate battle flag on state plates. To members like Oliver, having the image removed would be an affront to his family legacy.

“Our ancestors answered the call in the state of Virginia and defended it. They went to war for four years for it.”

To others, the flag has become a symbol of terror.

“This is a psychological symbol to a black person,” explained Richmond activist Evandra Catherine. “They see it and they see fear. They were told their parents and grandparents were slaves, and they saw this flag when the KKK came in with it flying high on their vehicles.”

Now decorating the bumpers of vehicles, the specialty license plates have been issued by the DMV for 14 years. Oliver says in spite of his group’s stance, he knows the plate’s days may be numbered.

“I would prefer to see the plates left as they are but the legal tide is against us,” said Oliver.

A hearing on Herring’s motion to rescind the plates is scheduled for July 31 in Danville, Virginia.

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