Gary Williamson, founder of Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, speaks during a 2015 rally in support of UNC’s Confederate monument Silent Sam in Chapel Hill. Williamson’s group now is considering four sites where they might raise Confederate battle flags in Orange County. Liz Condo File photo
Gary Williamson, founder of Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, speaks during a 2015 rally in support of UNC’s Confederate monument Silent Sam in Chapel Hill. Williamson’s group now is considering four sites where they might raise Confederate battle flags in Orange County. Liz Condo File photo

Orange County

Confederate flags could fly over multiple Orange County sites. One’s in Hillsborough.

By Tammy Grubb

tgrubb@heraldsun.com

February 09, 2018 04:19 PM

HILLSBOROUGH

A Southern heritage group based in Alamance County is talking with the owners of multiple Orange County sites about erecting a Confederate battle flag on their land.

At least one landowner, Robert Hall Jr., has contacted the group Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County in response to a call for donated Confederate battle flag sites across the state.

ACTBAC founder Gary Williamson said they’ve talked with Hall, who got a permit from the county for a 60-foot flagpole on U.S. 70 west of Hillsborough, but haven’t made a decision. It’s one of four potential sites in Orange County, including one on Interstate 40 and another off N.C. 54 near Carrboro, he said.

“We’re getting 10 emails, a couple phone calls a day from people wanting to (offer) a site,” Williamson said. “We do want one in Orange County, and we’re planning to put one in Orange County. That’s a fact. Other than that, I can’t tell you where or when.”

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The Orange County planning department was inundated with calls and visitors Thursday asking about the permit. The county doesn’t regulate the size or type of flag that can be flown, planning supervisor Michael Harvey said, but the flagpole does have to be a certain distance from the property lines.

News of the permit sent some residents to Facebook, where they discussed how to push back. Latarndra Strong, founder of the Hate-Free Schools Coalition, said members of the group are planning a rally and to ask the Orange County Board of Commissioners for help.

Video: In advance of the Orange County school board's decision on Monday, the founder of the Hate-Free Schools Coalition, Orange County, Latarndra Strong, shares the story of how it all began, on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Chapel Hill, NC. Casey Tothctoth@heraldsun.com

Strong said they want flag supporters to know most county residents do not share those views.

“Our hands are tied in some (ways) in being able to stop them, but I do expect to continue to put pressure on our government to make the difficult decisions,” she said. “For me, I don’t accept this as passive, like we can’t do anything about it.”

Hall seemed surprised to learn Friday that people already knew about the permit. He directed questions about the Confederate flag plans to Williamson but said he offered the land, because “it’s just our heritage, and everybody’s trying to ignore that part of the history.”

“It has nothing to do with racism,” he said.

ACTBAC raised its first Confederate flag a couple of years ago on N.C. 87 in Caswell County, Williamson said; another flies on N.C. 49 south of Burlington. It’s separate from the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans initiative, “Flags Across the Carolinas,” to raise Confederate flags in all 100 N.C. counties, he said.

Williamson said part of the reason they’re targeting Orange County is because of the ban on the Confederate flag and symbols in the county schools and Hillsborough’s decision to take the words “Confederate memorial” off the Orange County Historical Museum in 2015. There’s also the ongoing effort to remove Silent Sam, the Confederate statue on UNC’s campus, he said.

“It’s just basically standing up for what we believe in,” he said. “They’re trying to take them down – monuments down and symbols down and so on – and we’re going to put them back up.”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb