Though Minnesota doesn't fly the Confederate flag at its statehouse or on government grounds, the nationwide outrage regarding its public use has reached the North Star State.
The Minnesota Historical Society intermittently displays an original Confederate flag from the battle of Gettysburg, captured by Minnesota soldiers from a Virginia militia. It had hung in the basement of the state capital, before being moved.
"Minnesota captured the flag, so it was definitely a symbol of victory for Minnesota and for the union," curator Sondra Reierson told CBS Minnesota
Renewed outrage over the symbolism of the Confederate flag erupted following the June 17, 2015, massacre of nine black parishioners in a Charleston, South Carolina church. The gunman, who is white, was pictured with a Confederate flag and reportedly made bigoted comments during the shooting.
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Over the following weeks, the South Carolina legislature debated and eventually voted to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.
A Minnesota volunteer firefighter Brian Nielsen was suspended for flying a Confederate battle flag from the back of a truck during a Third of July parade in Albert Lea, Minnesota.
Nielson, who serves for the neighboring Heartland Fire Department, said he's not a racist, but was simply protesting political correctness.
"It's not that I'm up for the rebel or the slavery part of it," Nielsen told the Albert Lea Tribune
. "It's history. They're trying to take this flag away. They're basically trying to change the history and abolish it and get rid of it."
Nielson hung the Confederate battle flag from one side of the truck, with the U.S. flag on the other. He was condemned for his actions by Albert Lea officials.
"The display of the flag on a neighboring fire department vehicle does not reflect the values of the city of Albert Lea Fire Department and city organization. The flag was displayed by an individual from the Hartland Fire Department, and not a city of Albert Lea employee. We believe that the Albert Lea/Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce and City of Hartland will be appropriately addressing this issue in the immediate future," officials said in a statement
Jeffrey Williams, a member of the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, displayed a more reasoned approach to the flag debate. Speaking to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Williams said
the flag "should be remembered in a military historical context, not in a political context."
Williams further said there has been an "overreaction to ban all things Confederate" and once "emotions run their course ... perhaps the dialogue of the proper place for the Confederate Battle Flag in history can begin," according to the paper.
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