Advertisement
  1. News

Crowd rides for Confederate flag in Brandon rally

Rally participants display their support for the Confederate flag while driving on State Road 60 in Brandon on Friday.
Published Jun. 27, 2015

BRANDON — They came from Riverview, Lakeland, Ocala, Zephyrhills. They wore boots and blue jeans, "Git-R-Done" hats and camouflage.

Their vehicles were emblazoned with Confederate rebel flags, and they roared across State Road 60 early Friday night in support of Southern heritage.

"It's about any flag," said William Pew, 38 of Bloomingdale, who helped organize the rally. "We're riding for what we're proud of: white, black, Spanish."

The June 17 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., reignited the national debate over the Confederate battle flag, long considered a controversial symbol.

Authorities have charged 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, a white man, in the slayings of nine black people at a Bible study. Roof appeared in photos online holding a Confederate flag and burning an American flag. He purportedly wrote of fomenting racial violence.

Despite the renewed flag controversy, several people who rallied Friday night affirmed the right to express their beliefs, saying that times have changed enough for the flag to have new meaning.

"You can't take away someone's right to the flag," said Cathy McCann, 41, who made the drive from Lakeland, where she is a nurse at a rehab facility. "Hate is in the heart, not the fabric."

Tyler Boyd, another rally organizer from Riverview, pointed out how several flags carry difficult history.

"The U.S. flag was also flown under slavery," the 19-year-old said.

Before the riders left around 7 p.m. for downtown Tampa, they circled around a flatbed truck where organizers were speaking.

"Stay behind each other," Pew instructed the crowd. "You can play music, but let's not get stupid.

"We've got to kill everybody with … ?" he asked, pausing for an answer.

"Kindness," the crowd responded.

Throughout the evening, "it's all about heritage" was the cry among supporters.

Asked about that heritage, 15-year-old Devin Cossairt of Lakeland said it's about enjoying everyday life and taking things slow.

"There was slavery. There was hate," he said. "It's a couple of hundred years later, and we've changed. (The flag) has a whole new meaning."

"This isn't Tampa's flag," said Hunter Greene, a 19-year-old from Ocala. He was one of few blacks in the crowd. "This is the Confederate flag, which is for all the Southern states. I'm just the same as everybody here."

As the sun set, the trucks roared in a single file heading west on SR 60, where bystanders honked and exhaust fumes clogged the air.

From the front seat looking back at the long tail of cars, Pew was stunned. He said he started organizing the event Wednesday with two or three good friends — and didn't expect this turnout. He estimated that about 400 vehicles came for the ride.

"I can't believe there were no protestors," he said. "If this is such hatred, why were there no protestors?"

Contact Zack Peterson at zpeterson@tampabay.com. Follow @zackpeterson918.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Joshua Michael Nichols, 21, was arrested by Pasco County Sheriff's deputies on Saturday in connection to the early morning shooting death of an unidentified man during an argument outside a Spring Hill home. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    One person is in custody. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
  2. 5 hours ago• Pasco
    Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, received his third “Paul Harris Award.” the highest recognition from the Rotary Club, on Aug. 15. The pin was presented to Dr. Musunuru, a nationally-recognized cardiologist, by Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins in recognition of his humanitarian and philanthropic services to the people of Pasco County and the State of Florida for nearly 40 years. Pictured: Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, (left) and Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins. Jemith Rosa/Hudson Rotary Club
    News and notes about your neighbors
  3. A Lancaster County Sheriff's deputy walks around the Old Skool Sports Bar and Grill, the scene of a shooting early in the morning, north of Lancaster, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  Lancaster County Sherriff's Office said in a statement that the agency was investigating a fatal shooting that also injured several people.  (Jessica Holdman/The Post And Courier via AP) JESSICA HOLDMAN  |  AP
    Two adult males were shot and killed.
  4. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, listens to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, during the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ  |  AP
    Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg started the climate strike movement with her lone protest in front of her country’s parliament.
  5. Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. Times
    She was not in a crosswalk when she was hit, troopers say.
  6. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. JAMAL THALJI  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  8. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  9. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  10. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement