The police chief and mayor of Gettysburg, South Dakota, aren’t backing down after criticism of a Confederate flag patch on the local police department’s uniform. Rather than remove the offending symbol, the town is embracing it even more.
“If it had anything to do with racism we’d take it down and change it,” Mayor Bill Wuttke told The Huffington Post. “It has nothing to do with racism.”
The patch gained local media attention after Lynn Hart, a black resident of a different town, learned of the emblem and publicly denounced it. The criticism was part of the national debate over displaying the Confederate flag that has followed the massacre of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. After the attack — allegedly committed by a suspected white supremacist who had posed for photos with Confederate flags — the South Carolina legislature voted to remove a Confederate flag from outside the state’s Capitol building in Columbia.
The Gettysburg Police Department defended itself against Hart’s criticism, and even announced on Monday that it had changed its Facebook profile picture to an image of the patch.
The city of Gettysburg also made the patch the default photo on its Facebook page.
“This patch has no racist intentions; it is meant to be another way that we, as a city, represent our heritage,” a corresponding Facebook post from the city reads. “Without the war, and without the Battle of Gettysburg, we would not be the same City that we are. The Chief of Police, Bill Wainman, the Mayor, Bill Wuttke, and the City Council have no intentions of changing the police patch.”
Wuttke told HuffPost that he thought the flag controversy had been “blown way out of proportion.” He said the emblem, which shows the Confederate and American flags crossed over a Civil War-era cannon, is a tribute to Gettysburg’s heritage. The town was founded in 1883 by both Union and Confederate veterans of the Civil War, and was named after Gettysburg, Pennsylvania — the site of the war’s largest and most decisive battle.
Designed in 2009, the patch was meant to highlight the way these soldiers came together, Wuttke said. It appears on the police department’s sole uniform, typically worn by one of the department’s two officers, according to the Rapid City Journal. The same flag emblem can also be seen on the department’s squad car.
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post, Christopher Mathias