While Ohioans were sleeping, House Democratic lawmakers were offering two amendments on the House floor late Thursday and early Friday that would have prohibited the sale, display, possession or distribution of Confederate memorabilia at county and independent fairs, following a similar rule instituted by the Ohio State Fair in 2015. The motions came during floor debate on House Bill 665, which made several other changes to laws on local and county fairs. The U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy and NASCAR recently announced similar bans on Confederate memorabilia. Republicans rejected the amendments largely along party lines, voting instead to protect the sale of the Confederate flag.
“The Confederate flag is a banner of white supremacy and a reminder of our nation’s original sin of slavery,” said Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland), the Ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee and sponsor of the floor amendments. “That Republicans in the Ohio House cannot bring themselves to vote to condemn and prohibit these displays of white supremacy and outright racism at our local and county exhibitions—the places where we go to celebrate the best of Ohio—is a real shame, and a black eye on this institution. If you don’t stand up to white supremacists, you stand with them.” WATCH HER FLOOR SPEECH
The amendments come amid continued demonstrations in dozens of cities and towns across Ohio where protesters have called for an end to police brutality, white supremacy and racism in the United States following the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Ohio was a part of the Union. The failure to oppose a symbol of treason is absurd,” said Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “The symbolism that the Confederate flag represents is racism and oppression of Black and indigenous people. The Republican-led legislature should not be using taxpayer funds to promote hate and treason. Ohioans deserve better. The fact that Republicans are unwilling to listen to the diverse voices of Ohioans requesting to respect Black lives goes to show the disconnect between what the people want, and what the republican-led legislature is willing to do. ” WATCH HER FLOOR SPEECH
One of Brent’s amendments would have cut state funding to county and independent fairs who allow the sale of Confederate memorabilia. Republicans tabled that amendment as well.
House Bill 665 passed the House and now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Here is what other Democrats said on the amendments:
“31,000 Ohio Union soldiers sacrificed their lives to fight that flag and everything it represents. To fly it here or anywhere in Ohio is a flagrant disrespect of those men,” said Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson). “When the Allies defeated the fascist Nazi regime, they banned the public display of the Nazi flag, a flag that like the Confederate flag represented the systematic destruction of human life. For Nazism to die, the flag had to die. That same understanding has been coming for a long time in the United States and in Ohio, but that time has come.” WATCH FULL REMARKS
“The [Confederate] flag isn’t just a piece of cloth to make a political statement or to show pride, it’s a tool to instill terror in minority populations. It’s not an issue of history or white pride, it’s a statement of white power,” said Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma). “This is the same flag that’s been adopted by extremist groups, and proudly displayed by racist organizations like the KKK… It’s too little and too late for lip service about healing divisions—it’s time to show it with your actions…Enough is enough.” WATCH FULL REMARKS
“I represent an urban district, but my roots are rural. I understand that fairs are the fabric of our community. I believe the Confederate flag is a symbol that glorifies white supremacy, slavery and treason,” said Assistant Minority leader Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus). “We need to be done talking and take action.” WATCH FULL REMARKS
“We have a handful of times in our lives that we can make a difference, that we can do what’s right, that we can stand up for ourselves and future generations. Let it be said we did the right thing,” said Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson). WATCH FULL REMARKS
“We have an opportunity to set a new standard, create a new legacy, one in which we are taking a bold step,” said Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo). “I stand as a descendant of the original sin of this country, and I stand and pledge allegiance to a flag that sometimes I don’t feel gives justice for all. Today, last week, tomorrow, the tide is turning. We can make a change.” WATCH FULL REMARKS
“As elected officials at every level of government…we are fiscal agents responsible for the good stewardship of taxpayer dollars…I don’t think it is at all appropriate to use taxpayer dollars in a way that will allow vendors to perpetuate white supremacy,” said Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus). “Hiding behind an argument that possibly infringes on the first amendment rights…is hypocritical when this legislature passed a bill that clearly infringed upon constitutional rights and yet the majority passed the bill anyway.” WATCH FULL REMARKS
“What we’re trying to do is not a little thing…it’s the single step we’re doing here today that means something, just like the stool in the Woolworth, the seat in the school, or the bus seat in Alabama,” said Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus). “You can vote against this, you can say that you don’t like it, but this is exactly what this legislature did in the 132nd General Assembly [in HCR 10]. You can’t hide behind the First Amendment because this is the exact same thing we did in the 132nd General Assembly.” WATCH FULL REMARKS