With all the nationwide controversy and unrest over Confederate symbols generated by Charlottesville’s decision to remove a Robert E. Lee statue from a public square, the last thing county fair officials needed was the flaunting of a Confederate flag before thousands of spectators.
But that’s what happened Saturday at the Utah County Fair’s demolition derby in Spanish Fork.
As the crowd sat in anticipation of the event, a car, painted to depict the American flag on the body, drove onto the field with a Confederate flag on top.
The crowd did not cheer. Witnesses report there was a discernible collective sigh.
Utah County Fair director Mike Stansfield said the Confederate display was not sanctioned. He said the 17-year-old driver was registered to participate, but when he went through inspection, the Confederate flag was not on the car. After he was approved for entry, he placed the flag on top and drove onto the field without the knowledge of fair officials.
Stansfield added that the boy’s mother later said her son had no intention of ill will. It appeared to be more of a teenage prank.
“We respect everyone’s right to free speech,” Stansfield said. “But we reject hate or bigotry, or any message that might imply [either].”
Organizers of public celebrations have had several struggles with Confederacy advocates the past few years over the age-old argument: Is the flag a symbol of states’ rights and Southern pride or of racism, slavery, secession and discrimination?
An activist group calling itself the Utah Sons of Confederate Veterans has pushed its agenda several times.
The latest was at the Draper Days Parade in July, when that group donned Confederate military uniforms and marched with muskets while displaying a Confederate flag logo.
Cheers along the route quickly turned to silence when that entry passed by. Parade officials said the marchers were cautioned not to display the Confederate flag, but showed the logo anyway.
I wrote in 2015 about the Sons of Confederate Veterans marching in the Herriman Days Parade and displaying a Confederate flag logo. That entry happened to be sandwiched between a float carrying Miss Bluffdale, a young African-American woman, and Utah Rep. Mia Love, the first black female Republican member of Congress.
That Confederate group’s march in the Herriman parade occurred in the wake of a racially motivated mass killing of nine black parishioners at a historic black church in South Carolina.
The parade committee later wrote an apology to Herriman residents on the city’s website.
Two weeks later, a Magna parade committee refused to allow a display of the Confederate flag — even after the group threatened to sue.
A helping hand • Eric Moutsos is an interesting guy.
He was the Salt Lake City police officer who resigned from the force after getting in trouble for refusing to participate in a motorcycle officers’ procession at a gay pride parade in which the riders entertain the crowd in a celebratory nature.
He later attended the wedding of same-sex couple Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, plaintiffs in the landmark federal case that determined Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. And he took selfies.
He since has posted regularly on Facebook his anti-aborition and family-values positions.
A recent tongue-in-cheek post especially caught my attention.
“Please join with me in boycotting $1.00, $10.00, $20.00, $50.00 and $100.00 currency,” Moutsos wrote. “They have former slave owners and racists depicted on them; this money can be considered a symbol of hate to some. Please gather up all these items and send them to me promptly; I then can properly dispose of them to a safe place for you.”
Rest and relaxation • One might wonder how seriously Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took his role in deciding the fate of 27 national monuments and whether his actions were made without much of a review.
A week before his recommendations on the monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, he was in the Mediterranean on vacation with his wife, Lolita, who tweeted a picture of her and the secretary enjoying the sunrise on the Bosphorus Strait.
The picture was then posted on the website of Center for Western Priorities, which noted Zinke had visited only eight of the 27 monuments in question.
Correction: Aug. 25, 12:20 p.m. • Former Salt Lake City police officer Eric Moutsos refused to participate in a motorcycle officers’ procession in a gay pride parade. A previous version misstated what he refused to do at the event.