There were no shortage of antiques up for sale at the annual Sussex Flea Market, but one relic of the past flapping in the wind caused a stir among some shoppers.

"I passed one stall and I saw they were flying the Confederate flag," said Katherine Piercey, a patron of the market.

It was flying at the corner of a beige tent co-run by Tommy Mullin. 

Inside the tent, Confederate flags and bandanas with the same pattern were up for sale, alongside fidget spinners and bedazzled hats. 

Seeing the flag so prominently on display caught Piercey by surprise.

"Based on the political climate around the Confederate flag, it concerned me," she said.

Controversial climate

Across the United States and Canada, the continued display of relics and monuments dedicated to the Confederacy is the subject of fierce debate.

While some locations have willingly removed statues and plaques, protesters have taken it upon themselves to topple others.

Piercey said she asked Mullin why he was flying that particular flag. "He kind of wanted to challenge me," she said. "I just kept saying 'well, I don't really have an opinion,' and he said 'well great, your opinion doesn't really matter. It's the flag I'm flying.'"

"I thought it was just part of a war down there, the South against the North." - Tommy Mullin

In an interview with CBC News, Mullin said he didn't understand what the fuss was all about.

When asked why he was flying the Confederate Flag, he chuckled and said "It's the only flag I got."

Mullin, from Red Bank, New Brunswick, insisted he wasn't trying to be controversial by flying it. In fact, he claimed not to know any details about its history, including its connections with the slave trade.

taking down

Tommy Mullin takes down a Confederate flag he was flying above his stall at the Sussex Flea Market. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

"I thought it was just part of a war down there, the South against the North," Mullin said.

Mullin said since he started flying the flag on Saturday afternoon, he had received two complaints. He said one woman called him a white supremacist.

"She was a native woman," he said. "But from what I've heard, I don't think it's a native thing, is it?"

Taking it down

Early Sunday afternoon, security guards working for the flea market informed Mullin he was being asked to take the flag down. Mullin complied, while continuing to say he didn't understand what the big deal was about.

"This is a family friendly event,"  said Steve Clements, who chairs the committee which puts on the popular Sussex Flea Market each year. "We want people to come and enjoy themselves."

Steve Clements

Steve Clements, one of the organizers of the Sussex Flea Market. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

He said, after receiving a complaint from a shopper, the decision was made to ask Mullin to lower the flag.

"He was very generous and complied, and that was pretty much the end of the story," said Clements. The flea market, he said, does its best each year to prevent the sale or display of illegal or offensive items.

Despite the controversy, Mullin was allowed to keep selling the Confederate flag at his table.

He said he would make an effort to educate himself on the controversy. "I'll have to go on a computer and check it out, see exactly what it does mean."

With files from Jordan Gill and Ben Silcox