Alberta man displays confederate flag at anti-racism rally in Summerland, B.C.
Mayor says man told her he bought the flag at a local store before attending rally
The mayor of Summerland, B.C., says she has met with a man from Alberta who displayed a Confederate flag at an anti-racism rally on Thursday.
Mohini Singh, a city councillor from nearby Kelowna, was one of the people who spotted the man while she attended a drive-by rally in support of a local family who found racist and vulgar graffiti spray-painted on their home.
"He was waving to me and pointing to something, and it was the Confederate flag," Singh said. "I was absolutely horrified."
Singh says she phoned police and told them about the incident.
Summerland Mayor Toni Boot says RCMP officers contacted her Friday night to say they had found the man, who had the flag displayed on his pick-up truck, and he wanted to speak to her to apologize.
Boot, who is Black, says she welcomed the opportunity for a conversation with the man, who she said is white and in his mid-20s.
"I asked him if he understood what the Confederate flag means to people that look like me," Boot said.
He explained that he wasn't aware of the flag's racist connotations, Boot says, and that many of his friends in his community near Edson, Alta., had one as well. As for how he ended up at the rally, Boot says he claimed his girlfriend had told him about it.
Boot says she didn't believe him, but she wanted to use the conversation as an opportunity to discuss the incident.
"I didn't want to create any hostilities by suggesting that he was lying to me," she said. "I just wanted to have the conversation continue in a positive way."
Flags sold at local store
The man was polite and apologetic, Boot says, both with her and with the officers they were with. She says he was planning to leave Summerland on Sunday.
For Boot, almost as troubling as the actual incident at the rally was the fact that the man told her he had purchased the flag at a dollar store in town.
Boot says she had spoken to the store owners a few years ago, and she didn't think they were selling them anymore.
On Sunday, the mayor told CBC News she returned to the store with two friends later in the day on Saturday and spoke with the owner again.
"I said so you're profiting off of these Confederate flags," she said. "You're perpetuating racism in our town."
'An uncomfortable thing to talk about'
Boot says she asked to buy the remaining flags — he told her they were bandanas — but she says he eventually just gave them to her.
"It wasn't a particularly pleasant conversation," Boot said. "This is an uncomfortable thing to talk about."
Boot and her friends then sat in front of the store and ripped all 30 flags one by one and threw them in the garbage — a moment captured on video by a local outlet of Black Press.
The owner of the store did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
There is a council meeting scheduled on Monday, Boot says, and she intends to discuss ways the city can foster discussion about racism in the community.
With files from Brady Strachan