In the central Florida town of Ocala thousands of people gathered to attend a rally in support of the Confederate flag on Sunday in the aftermath of a recently passed South Carolina bill removing the flag from the premises of the state’s assembly.
At least 4,500 people participated in the rally, waving their flags and adorning their cars with them.
"Florida Southern Pride Ride," is “a peaceful motor ride, parade through Marion County,” the organiser of the rally, David Stone, said.
In June an administrator ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from the McPherson Governmental Complex following the Charleston shootings in which nine black church members were killed, however it was reinstalled last week.
Recently, a bill ordering the removal of the Confederate flag from the State capitol was signed by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. While this move was welcomed by many, it offended people who have emotional ties to the slavery supporting Confederate States.
The flag represented the military forces of the secessionist southern states during the American Civil War in the 19th century. For many people, the flag represents racism because these states supported slavery.
The widespread impression of the flag having racist undertones was consolidated after a picture emerged of 21-year-old Dylan Roof, who is facing nine counts of murder of black church members, waving the flag.
However, the flag’s supporters say the flag is part of their cultural heritage passed down to them from their ancestors who fought in the Civil War
Tension the NAACP predicted rises
Recent developments on the Confederate flag dispute has been considered as a victory over white-supremacists and lead to a reconciliation on the issue.
For instance, following South Carolina’s move to remove the disputed Confederate flag, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Saturday announced that it had voted to end the 15-year boycott of South Carolina.
NAACP stated that the removal of the flag was clearly a victory for the human rights organisation, which has been requesting that South Carolina remove the Confederate Flag since 1999.
However, the NAACP said there still are “battles to be fought in other states and jurisdictions where emblems of hate and oppression continue to be celebrated.”
NAACP seems to have predicted the rising tension in the South.
A local news source WFTV, reported on Sunday that gunshots were heard during the pro-flag rally from an apartment complex where the support ride started.
It is disputed that residents of the apartment complex where the gunshots were heard was predominantly African American.
“They come, they watch them run through on their motorcycles, running red lights and throwing beer bottles. The police didn’t stop them or nothing,” the residents reported to WFTV.
The residents alleged that police did not take an action when “Pride Ride” participants harassed.
A spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans unofficially announced a backlash. "We are putting flags out. Everyone time one is taken down, we put five or six of them up." he said.