In This Town, the Police Actually Wear the Confederate Flag on Their Uniforms

Source: AP
Source: AP

The Confederate battle flag is being yanked from United States government properties faster than you can say "Dixie." 

But one place isn't budging: A small town in South Dakota where the Stars and Bars remain proudly displayed on local police officers' uniforms.

Welcome to Gettysburg (no, not that one). Population: 1,172. Since 2009, the Gettysburg Police have been wearing patches on their shirtsleeves depicting a Confederate flag and a U.S. flag, crossed in unified harmony.

But it's fine, says Gettysburg Police Chief Bill Wainman. "If anyone visits, they know this is the nicest, least judgmental place. [The patch] just goes back to the history of the town," he told Mic. "It hasn't been a problem for six years, and we'd really just like for this controversy to go away."

"Controversy" is a strong word for what's been going on in Gettysburg. Few outside South Dakota have noticed the sleeve patch since it was redesigned in 2009. And few residents have complained. The only real to-do came when "someone on Facebook" pointed it out earlier this month and local news picked it up, explains Chief Wainman.

"This patch has no racist intentions."

According to the city's official Facebook page, Gettysburg's patch differs from places like South Carolina and Alabama in that it symbolizes unity and reunification, rather than the secessionism glorified in most Confederate "heritage" lore.

"Gettysburg was founded in 1883 by Civil War veterans, many of whom are still buried here," the city's post from July 13 reads.

"[The] police patch has the Amercian [sic] Flag and the Confederate flag overlapping, which was meant to symbolize unification ... This patch has no racist intentions; it is meant to be another way that we, as a city, represent our heritage. Without the war, and without the Battle of Gettysburg, we would not be the same City that we are."

Sound familiar? Most defenses of the Confederate flag hinge on the argument that it represents pride, heritage and states' rights, not racism. This debate has only grown amid the nationwide backlash since the June 17 murder of nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina by a white supremacist.

The main problem is that everyone who marched beneath it — including white supremacists today — did so to endorse slavery and invest further in the myth of black inferiority.

Civil War re-enactors in Appomattox, Virginia.
Source: 
Steve Helber/AP

But that was then, the people of Gettysburg will have you know. "Some have used it as a symbol of hate, but it goes back to the heart of the people who are using it," Wainman said. "I've pulled people over of all colors, and no one's mentioned the patch. We help all people here."

In any case, there seems to be a growing consensus from political leaders that the flag has no business on U.S. government paraphernalia. The town of Gettysburg, on the other hand, seems to have embraced it even further, changing the Facebook profile pictures on both its city and police department pages to an image of the patch this week.

"It is not racist and it will not be changed," reads the statement on the city's Facebook page. And as of July 16, it has not.

"We just want to go back to being the wonderful little town we know we are," Wainman added. According to U.S. Census data, Gettysburg is 95% white.

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Zak Cheney Rice

Zak is a Senior Staff Writer at Mic.

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