If you’re gonna talk the talk, you’re gonna have to walk the walk. At least that’s what the Montgomery County, N.C., decided after a group of local firefighters refused to remove a Confederate flag from fire station property.
According to 11 Alive, the Uwharrie Volunteer Fire Department has been proudly flying the flag of losers and traitors for years, claiming that it represented history and heritage.
Montgomery County commissioners, however, insisted that the flag was inappropriate and divisive and attempted to get the fire station to remove it.
“The Board of Commissioners stated their position, that they did think the flag was inappropriate and requested for the Fire Department to take it down,” Montgomery County Manager Matthew Woodard told the news station.
By Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners issued an ultimatum in writing: Remove the flag or lose full funding.
That would translate to $20,000 and the possibility of a new fire truck that cashes in at about $400,000. The commissioners wrote that the firefighters would only receive money for fuel and maintaining the two fire trucks that are owned by the county.
“The flag is not hurting a thing,” Lee Hudson, who is with the Fire Department, told the news station. “We are not a racist department. We are not in any way. Members or the department as a whole.”
The Board of Commissioners had been trying to negotiate with the firefighters for months before sending the letter. Commissioners even offered to build an “appropriate remembrance” in place of the controversial flag.
“It has come to represent oppression, hate and bigotry. That’s why the commissioners have offered something else, an appropriate remembrance,” Woodard said, according to the Courier-Tribune.
However, firefighters refused to budge, 11 Alive notes.
“We would love to work with the county and for them to support us,” Hudson said, emphasizing the department’s unwillingness to stand down. “But we’re not going to move on the issue of taking down the flag.”
“The Board of Commissioners recognize the position they are in, the leadership responsibility they have to the county, and the obligation they have to the residents of Uwharrie,” Woodard told the news station. “They have tried to find a middle ground to send the appropriate message in relations to that flag and at the same time not to jeopardize the well-being of the residents of Montgomery County.”
The letter was signed by four of five commissioners, including the chair of the board. The fifth commissioner, Mike Criscoe, said that he did not sign the letter because although he did agree with removing the flag, he did not want to take away funding from the department that is needed to keep citizens—and the firefighters themselves—safe, according to the Courier-Tribune.
“I do feel like the flag, people see it as hate,” he said. “I would like to see the flag removed, but it could have been handled more diplomatically. This could have a snowball effect. If they build a new station, the volunteers probably wouldn’t go along. The county may have to pay firefighters. Then other stations would want to be paid.”
According to the 2000 census, almost 22 percent of Montgomery County is black.