Confederate flags shock viewers at Petaluma Veterans Day parade

The appearance of Confederate flags along the route of Friday’s Petaluma Veterans Day parade has sparked outrage among some viewers, including San Rafael Rep. Jared Huffman. “It was just so out of place that I had to do a double-take,” said Huffman, who appeared in the parade riding an old WWII-era Jeep with Petaluma resident Steve Countouriotis, a decorated war hero.

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As they drove by Walnut Park — where the parade route began an ended — Huffman and Countouriotis glimpsed three men each holding flags with different insignia: One dangled an official Confederate States of America flag, while another waved the Army of North Virginia Battle flag, and the third held what appeared to be a “South Will Rise Again” flag. Two of them were wearing Donald Trump shirts, Huffman said.

“It stunned me on several levels,” said the congressman, a Democrat who has sponsored legislation to bar gratuitous sales of Confederate flag memorabilia in national parks and to prohibit Confederate memorial displays in national cemeteries. His bills failed in the U.S. Senate but prompted the National Parks Service and U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enact their own bans.

After the parade, Huffman tweeted photos of the flag-wavers and decried their message. Parade organizer Steve Kemmerle said he confronted the men after a police officer noticed them standing in a corner of Walnut Park. “They said they were ‘Sons of Confederate Soldiers,’” Kemmerle said, speculating that the men were satirizing the name of a “Sons of Union Soldiers” contingent that marches in the parade every year.

He said the three men stood with their flags from about noon to 2 p.m., and then quietly left. Parade organizers and law enforcement have no control over the signs or messages bystanders carry in the park, Kemmerle said. But if the men had stepped into the parade, he noted, police would have shooed them out. He and Huffman viewed the flags as a reaction to last week’s presidential election, and said the men were probably emboldened by Trump.

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