Reporter: Dave Tate
Lexington, VA - The battle over the Confederate flag in Lexington entered a new phase when attorneys representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a civil rights lawsuit in Roanoke federal court against the city of Lexington Thursday afternoon.
It was an expected move after the city banned all flag displays on city property except for national, state or city flags.
While it is a new development, much of the legal action is simply asking for a 19-year old court decision to be upheld that would once again allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans to fly the Confederate flag on Lee-Jackson Day.
Beneath the watchful eye of General Stonewall Jackson himself, in a cemetery where 342 confederate soldiers lay buried, a generation working to preserve those sacrifices gets set to once again make their point.
"Ever since the city adopted the ordinance, we've come out once a week on Thursdays usually at lunch time and just walk through town carrying some flags," said Brandon Dorsey, part of Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The message is simple.
"We told city council if they didn't want to see flags once a year, we'd let them see them once a week," said Dorsey.
And they do. They also told city council that if they go back on the 1993 court sanctioned promise not to interfere with the presentation of the confederate flag in Lexington, they would sue them again. And they did.
"This is a first amendment issue. This is a constitutional issue. This is a freedom of speech issue and we have to be ever vigilant when those rights are trespassed," said Tom Strelka, SCV attorney.
The two count lawsuit asks for the court to find the City of Lexington in contempt of that 1993 order plus a new charge for violating the groups' civil rights once again.
And because the Sons feel they can prove the city acted solely because of the confederate flag, even though the ordinance bans almost all flags, they are confident that they will once again prevail.
"I think it's pretty clear that the reason they took this vote was to silence what we were doing," said Dorsey.
Although Lexington City Manager Jon Ellistad deferred all comments to the city attorney, he did say that the city had anticipated the lawsuit.
The City Attorney, Laurence Mann, did not return phone calls Thursday about the lawsuit.