LORAIN, Ohio — Confederate monuments are coming down across the country following the death of George Floyd.
As county and independent fairs in Ohio are working to determine their futures, the sale and display of the confederate flag is a topic making its way to the forefront.
District 12 Representative Juanita Brent proposed banning the sale or display of confederate flags at local fairs, but that proposal was quickly struck down by other Ohio lawmakers who cited a potential violation of the First Amendment.
“Black people were not considered as human beings. We were considered as cattle. As property,” Brent said, “So it’s long overdue.”
The Ohio State Fair banned the sale of confederate flag merchandise back in 2015 and now Brent wants to see county fairs follow suit.
“To say and to allow this to still continue and people to be okay with it is racism,” Brent said.
Some argue confederate symbols and memorabilia mark a piece of American history while others say the flag is a racist, divisive symbol of dark times.
“That is a symbol of hate. That is a symbol of oppression,” Brent said. “That is a symbol of people who wanted to keep African Americans enslaved and take over the United States.”
While Ohio was part of the union during the American Civil War, Brent said the symbol is prevalent at fairs in the Buckeye State each year.
“History belongs in a book. History belongs in a museum,” Brent said, “But a confederate flag does not belong to be shown out and sold within the community.”
For more than 40 years, Civil War memorabilia, including the confederate flag, has been sold at the Lorain County Fair, which continues to cause controversy.
Board Member Kim Meyer said if the item was banned by the state, the fair would have no choice but to enforce that rule.
After the proposal was struck down by legislators Wednesday night, Paul Harris of the Ohio Fair Managers Association said the organization doesn’t have the power to enforce that sort of measure.
“One way or another to tell a fair what to do, we don’t have that governing ability,” Harris said.
Harris added unless there is a statewide ban on the sale or display of the Civil War symbol at county fairs, it will be up to concessions managers to navigate the controversial topic.
“I’ve seen concession managers specifically just ask a booth or something you know, ‘It’s okay if you have it and it’s okay if you sell it, but don’t put it out on display,’” Harris said.
The Lorain County Fair Board will discuss the future of its fair at a specially-called meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. but it’s unclear if the sale of confederate flag memorabilia will be a topic of discussion.