Hundreds of Virginia residents waged a new Confederate battle this month, refusing to give up state license plates with the Confederate battle flag on them. They say the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles' recent recall on the controversial plates violates their rights, despite being essentially approved by a federal judge in August, WAVY reported.
“Next thing you know, they’re going to say you can’t wear blue on Monday…or you can’t wear yellow on Thursday. Where’s it going to end?” Kevin Collier, a commander with the Stonewall Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told the local news station.
He's not alone. Roughly 1,600 Virginians with Confederate flag-themed license plates received a letter from the DMV in September requesting they swap the plates for new, state-designed ones by Oct. 4. Only 187 people have done so, according to WAVY. Others simply sent back the new plates.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, made the decision to recall the Confederate flag plates June 23 -- six days after a white man, Dylann Roof, killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Pictures online showed Roof posing with the Confederate flag, and he later told police he hoped to start a "race war," the Washington Post reported.
The massacre started a national movement to remove Confederate insignia from state property, stores and products. McAuliffe, for example, said "even its display on state-issued license tags is, in my view, unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people.”
The plates had been allowed in Virginia for nearly 15 years, ever since a federal judge issued a 2001 injunction ruling that banning them would be discriminating against the Sons of Confederate Veterans and limiting their First Amendment rights. But the judge dissolved the injunction this past August, referencing a related Texas case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled plates should be considered government speech.
Now, if caught on the roads with the invalid plates, drivers could be charged with a misdemeanor, MSNBC reported.
Collier told WVEC his refusal was a matter of principle and family history. "I have a great-great-great grandfather who fought and died with the 5th Georgia Infantry. And his four brothers all died with him in the name of that flag," he said. "I will go to jail before I change those tags."