Groups have war of words over Confederate flag in Gettysburg

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GETTYSBURG, Pa.--  Saturday marked the inaugural Sons of Confederate Veterans Confederate Flag Day. More than 100-people gathered in Gettysburg, Adams County to celebrate the day, their heritage and the flag. Dozens of others were also there to oppose the flag and what they believe it stands for.

"There are plenty of symbols you can choose that don't have the history and present day connection with racism that that one does," said Scott Hancock.

He and a group of about 30-people met in front of the President Abraham Lincoln statue in Lincoln Square and marched nearly two miles to protest the celebration.

"I would argue that based on the actual facts and the actual history that the Confederate flag can't separate itself from white supremacy and racism," he said.

Opposition to the flag gained attention after self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylan Roof allegedly killed nine people in a South Carolina church last summer. He was pictured with the Confederate flag.

"It is certainly sad that the shooting occurred and our hearts go out to those individuals. The Confederate Flag is a part of History and it is part of American history. It should be studied and understood," said Gary Casteel, with Sons of Confederate Veterans, Gettysburg.

"The fact that people are responding about the public criticism of a symbol with more support, I do find that unfortunate and a bit disturbing." said Hancock.

"The others misuse it and they misuse it wrongly. They have no right to it and I wish they would give it up," said Retired Marine Lt. Cpl. Mike Landree.

Landree is the Executive Director of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He was invited by the Gettysburg Chapter, to the organizations inaugural Confederate Flag Day.

"The heritage and the history we have go away if they're not celebrated," he said.

Some protestors, separate from Hancock's group, became rowdy, yelling for those at the celebration to go home. After about two hours everyone left, holding on to their own beliefs.

In a statement Gettysburg Park said, in part, "The National Park Service mission in preserving and protecting the historic resources at Gettysburg includes making them available to all Americans, even those whose views are contrary to the majority of the American public."

Both groups had a permit to be on the property and the park says they have a right to exercise their first amendment rights.

One woman, named Carolyn, stood between the groups holding an American flag that belonged to her dad. He was a World War II veteran.

"Because I am proud of it and because of this flag we can have this desertion. That's the reason and I would like to keep it that way," she said.

Next March, the Sons of Confederate Veterans plan to host another Confederate Flag Day event.

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