Largest known Confederate flag raised in Blairs

    Largest known Confederate flag raised in Blairs (WSET)

    BLAIRS, Va. (WSET) -- The battle over hate versus heritage entered a new round. Civil war monuments and symbols are under attack around the nation and here in the Commonwealth.

    Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Virginia Flaggers removed an old and tattered Confederate flag near U.S. 29 in Blairs Saturday afternoon.

    They Replaced it with what they say is the largest one ever put up.

    "We all have ancestors that fought for southern independence," explained Frank Baptista, the Capt., of SCV Mechanized Calvary. "The flag represents those men that gave their lives."

    Raising the 51 by 31 feet flag on a windy day was no easy task. But they say each tug and lift was well worth the effort.

    "It's nothing racial, it's nothing hateful, it's been misrepresented in the past," said Baptista. "It's true meaning is a religious symbol, and the men fought bravely behind it."

    "You don't want to chip away at it and erase heritage like it's nothing, like it didn't exist, and that's very sad to me to see that happening in this country," added Baptista's wife, Tammy.

    There is a clear divide between those who support the Confederate flag, and those who say that in 2017 the country is better than that.

    "We see that heritage as a racist heritage that really needs to be relegated to a museum and to textbooks," explained Rev. William Avon Keen, a member of Danville Ministerial Alliance.

    He says it's a symbol used by hate groups and doesn't take into account the physical and emotional pain of those who suffered under it.

    "That's the part of the history and heritage that needs to be preserved is how violent these wars were and what led to these wars, fighting over slavery, and as they say, states' rights to do what you want with your property, which at that time, slaves were considered property," said Keen.

    But to supporters, it's about preserving heritage. "Everybody should be able to honor their history and heritage," said Baptista. "And we all should get along and live happy lives together."

    The Virginia Flaggers have drawn hundreds of supporters with plans to raise more Confederate flags in the near future.

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