Midvale councilman calls for the Utah city to ban Confederate flags from its Harvest Days Parade

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A 1942 Chevrolet pickup sports a Confederate flag during a Labor Day event at Magna's Copper Park in 2017.

A Midvale councilman is asking the city to reconsider its stance on allowing the Confederate flag to be used in future Harvest Days parades, calling its presence at the event last weekend “indecent.”

Dustin Gettel, who was part of the parade’s planning committee, said he was “shocked” to see members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans there, a “symbol of hate” draped across the back of their truck.

“I’m like, ‘Hmm, that’s not a real good look for us,’” Gettel told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday. “So, you know, I just kind of brushed it off. People said, ‘Oh, they’re here every year and no one pays any attention to them and everyone just kind of looks down and pretends they don’t walk by when they’re called out in the parade.’”

But Gettel couldn’t get the image out of his head, and he posted a comment questioning the use of the symbol on his council Facebook page and in a public Facebook group of Midvale residents on Saturday. Both generated more than 100 comments — some in defense of the flag and others in opposition to it. Gettel said his position is clear.

“I obviously would like to see them just gone from the parade altogether,” he said, “but I know we do have a First Amendment. They do have some rights to be in the parade, but I think at the very least we could maybe get rid of that flag, since it’s pretty offensive to a lot of people. And it has no historical bearing for Midvale, Utah. This state was not a part of the Civil War.”

Gettel raised the issue again at the council’s Tuesday meeting, and the city has since made plans to meet with the group next week to see if they can come to an agreement about how to move forward, according to Mayor Robert Hale.

“It is political, and it has to be dealt with,” Hale said, noting that he thinks the city can find an agreement that will work for all parties.

The Utah chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans doesn’t seem to have a website or Facebook page. The national Sons of Confederate Veterans organization did not immediately return a call requesting comment Friday evening.

The local group has marched in Utah with Confederate flags in the past, including in the Draper Days parade in July 2017 and in the Herriman Days Parade in 2015. The Herriman parade entry was sandwiched between a float carrying Miss Bluffdale, a black woman, and Rep. Mia Love, the first black female Republican member of Congress. Herriman’s parade committee later apologized to Herriman residents.

As a number of Confederate statues and monuments have come under question in recent months, Gettel said the presence of the flag in Midvale’s parade must as well.

“The flag does not deserve a place of honor — it belongs only in museums and textbooks, teaching students about the dangers of racism and the American history of slavery."