Opponents to Confederate flag over I-95 may fly huge Black Lives Matter sign

WASHINGTON — Despite Stafford County’s attorney saying the Virginia county’s “hands are tied” about the huge Confederate battle flag that flies over Interstate 95, a group of Stafford residents opposed to the flag has filed a new zoning complaint with the county, and members say they may erect their own 80-foot flagpole to fly a Black Lives Matter sign.

The group’s new zoning complaint says while the Confederate flag and flagpole stand on private property, the pairing constitutes an illegal business sign, rather than a protected flag.

The filing by attorney Patricia Healy says the flag and pole are owned by the Virginia Flaggers group, “which is actively engaged in erecting Confederate flags across the Commonwealth and raising money to fund its activities.”

According to the filing, Stafford County zoning ordinances don’t limit the size and height of “flags of any nation, state, or other geopolitical entity.”

The Stafford ordinance doesn’t offer protection to the Confederate flag, according to Healy.

“An entity that sought to establish existence over 150 years ago and does not exist today cannot be defined as any nation, state, or other geopolitical entity,” she wrote.

Under current zoning ordinances, Healy said signs may be no more than 6 feet.

Last week, Stafford County Attorney Charles Shumate told the Board of Supervisors that the flag, which many see as a symbol of hate, is located on private property, which limits any steps the government can take.

“It has been the law of this land, under the First Amendment, that the Confederate flag may fly,” said Shumate. “It may be very disrespectful to some people, and I respect that.”

Hubert Wayne Cash owns the property in Falmouth, and has leased it to Virginia Flaggers until 2024.

“The Property Owner and Virginia Flaggers, LLC have every right to use their Property and express their views as they see fit, as long as they meet the same standards are everyone else,” Healy wrote. “Stafford County needs to take immediate action to compel the flag to be rebuilt in order that it is no higher than permitted under the sign regulations.”

Susan Kosior, a member of the group that filed the latest motion, said if the county doesn’t require the Confederate flag to be lowered, she is considering erecting an 80-foot flagpole to fly a huge Black Lives Matters sign in her backyard.

“We are looking into doing some fundraising, as it is quite expensive to put up a flagpole of this size,” she told WTOP. “I would prefer to not to have to install an 80-foot flagpole on my property, and I’m sure my neighbors wouldn’t want it around us either, so let’s hope the county comes up with a plan soon.

Given the location of her home, Kosior said the sign wouldn’t be visible from the highway, but could be seen from tourist destinations “and would be able to hopefully somewhat counteract the negative impact of the Confederate flag on the highway.”

In addition, Kosior said there are “some folks looking at private properties in other locations up and down 95 to potentially install Black Lives Matter flags or Gay Pride flags,”

“You can see where this really could get out of hand when one considers the visual impact of 80-foot flag poles all over the county.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Virginia Flaggers is leasing the property until 2024.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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