No Response to Reports of Links to White Supremacists
It’s been an interesting week for the Virginia Flaggers. It’s now documented rather fully that the leadership of the group, including spokespeople Susan Frise Hathaway and Grayson Jennings, marched with and accepted awards with one Matthew Heimbach, a renowned white supremacist.
In the following announcement the Flaggers numbered Heimbach as one of their own:
At the same time the Flaggers were at the Hanover Tomato Festival AND Flagging the VMFA, the Sons of Confederate Veterans were holding their National Reunion in Murfreesboro, TN. We were thrilled to learn that many of our own Va Flaggers received recognition for their work over the past year, including: Commander-in-Chief’s Award: Everette Ellis Commendation Award: Jamie Funkhouser Heritage Defense Medal: Billy Bearden, Jamie Funkhouser Meritorious Service Medal: Everette Ellis, Bob Harris, Ashleigh Moody, Mike Pullen, and Tracy Wright Distinguished Service Medal: Billy Bearden, Matthew Heimbach, Grayson Jennings, Tommy Thomas, Capt. Tucker, Willie Wells Commander-In-Chief’s Ladies Appreciation Award: Susan Hathaway
So, by the Flaggers’ own admission, Mr. Heimbach’s one of them.
Flagger webmaster and spokesperson Connie Chastain at first tried to dismiss the evidence, claiming that Heimbach’s presence at a Flagger event in February 2012 proved very little. It appears that she at first did not know better:
Since then she has learned that Heimbach’s interaction with the Flaggers is far more than she initially suspected, but she has failed to respond to evidence that the relationship is more extensive than that, with Heimbach contributing posts as a member of the Flaggers’ Facebook group. Nor has she responded to the evidence reproduced above that the Flaggers themselves embraced Heimbach as a fellow Flagger. Neither Hathaway nor Jennings have addressed this matter, although both of them have had no previous problem in making themselves available to the media.
Hathaway’s explanations of why the Flaggers propose to fly a large Confederate flag on a flag pole mounted on private property rest upon professed desire to honor the service of Confederate soldiers and to welcome visitors to Richmond. As one report put it:
“The sole intention of this is to honor our ancestors,” said Susan Hathaway, founder of the Virginia Flaggers. “There is no intention to stick anything in anybody’s face.”
That this claim that such is the “sole” purpose is contradicted by the notion of welcoming visitors to Richmond can be set aside, although, to be kind, it is not clear as to whether she first consulted with the residents of Richmond as to what their desires might be.
A good number of people are now making their desires known. A petition asking the Flaggers to desist has drawn nearly 25,000 signatures, far more than the Flaggers’ admitted membership of fifty people. Nevertheless, all sides recognize the Flaggers’ right to free speech, although some Flagger proponents seem uncomfortable when other people exercise their free speech to speak out against the project.
In the end, of course, the Flaggers will erect their flagpole and raise their flag. For all of the chatter in which some of them engage in talking about southern nationalism, they seek and will receive the same protection offered them as citizens of the United States under the Constitution. At the same time, they will find it increasingly hard to convince others that they know nothing about the agenda of their fellow travelers, especially the ones they embrace as one of their own. Their eagerness to attack their critics is matched only by their complete silence when it comes to disavowing their principles and beliefs of such people. In some cases, notably that of spokesperson Chastain, there is plenty of evidence to imply a sympathy with the objectives of such groups. Nor did Hathaway hesitate to share her story with the Southern Nationalist Network, which supports her activities.
At this point, the Flaggers can no longer sustain the pretense of ignorance about Heimbach. However, they have failed to express dissatisfaction with his views. Rather, when they have spoken, Flaggers have shown their support for Heimbach. Take Tripp Lewis:
Yes, that Tripp Lewis.
It remains to be seen how Richmonders will react to the Flaggers’ project. But for now, the claims of innocence and pure motives behind this endeavor no longer shield the sentiments of those who are behind it. So much for “restore the honor.”