‘Backlash is beginning’: Miles-long convoy of Confederate flag supporters rally in Florida

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An eight-mile convoy of pickups, motorcycles and cars wound through a central Florida town on Sunday in a show of support for the Confederate flag, as a backlash against its banishment from public landmarks across the South picks up steam.

Horns blared and hundreds of the rebel flags fluttered as more than 1,500 vehicles and some 4,500 people turned out for the “Florida Southern Pride Ride” in Ocala, according to police estimates. Vehicles from states across the South and as far away as California participated.

“That flag has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people,” said David Stone, 38, who organized the event. “It doesn’t symbolize hate unless you think it’s hate — and that’s your problem, not mine.”

Organizers announced the event as the South embarked on an emotional debate over the flag’s symbolism in the aftermath of the massacre of nine blacks by a white gunman in a Charleston church last month. The suspect in the church shootings had posed with the flag in photos posted on a website.

In South Carolina, lawmakers moved quickly to take the flag down from the statehouse grounds in Columbia, a longstanding demand of those who see it as a divisive symbol of the South’s pro-slavery legacy.

Alabama and scores of municipalities have take similar steps since the June 17 massacre.

But the national push to pull the controversial icon from stores and public displays is being met with determined resistance in some corners of the United States.

Supporters such as those who drove through Ocala on Sunday insist the flag is a honorable symbol of regional pride, a mark of respect for Southern soldiers who died in the American Civil War.

In Ocala, the seat of Marion County, an administrator had ordered the Confederate flag’s removal from a government complex. But last week county leaders overruled the order and the banner is again flying atop the building.

“It’s just about heritage. I’m upset they want to remove a piece of history,” said Jessica McRee, 29, an Ocala native and employee of a law enforcement agency who participated in Sunday’s ride.

In Hurley, Virginia, the rebel flag is more visible than ever as residents show their support for keeping the local high school’s logo, which features the Confederate flag waving from a saber.

‘Backlash is beginning’

Mississippi, whose state flag incorporates the design of the Confederate banner, is divided. The city of Hattiesburg has removed all state flags from city buildings, but just three miles away, the town of Petal has voted to fly the state flag at all of its city buildings.

Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant has refused to call a special legislative session to address the issue, resisting calls to do so from leading state officials. In a 2001 statewide referendum, Mississippians overwhelmingly endorsed keeping the current state flag’s design.

“A backlash is beginning,” said Ben Jones, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which represents 30,000 descendants of Confederate soldiers. “We are putting flags out. Everyone time one is taken down, we put five or six of them up.”

Jones, a former Democratic congressman from Georgia who starred in the hit 1980s TV comedy series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” said he has been selling out of the replicas for sale at his show-themed stores in Tennessee and Virginia. The show featured a stock car dubbed the General Lee with an image of the Confederate flag on its roof.

North Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles recently sold out of a series of specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag, local media reported. It has ordered more of the plates, which may be discontinued in the future.

Not everyone in rural Ocala was in sympathy with the ride, which police said was peaceful.

Galina Abdelaziz, 18, a recent Ocala high school graduate, stood with three others protesting the flag at the beginning of the parade route.

“It’s really discouraging to me to see this in my hometown,” Abdelaziz said.

The terminus of the parade had been changed at the last minute to avoid a largely black neighborhood where residents opposed the event, according to Ocala Sergeant Robie Bonner.

From REUTERS

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Early voting: At least 16.4M ballots already cast

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After Blocking Surgeon General Nominee, Republican Blames Obama For Surgeon General Vacancy

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It has been nearly a year since Vivek Murthy was nominated by President Obama to serve as the next Surgeon General, but thanks in large part to the gun lobby and their Republican allies in the Senate, there has yet to be any movement on his confirmation.

 That vacancy has become a central focus in the last week as government officials and medical professionals try to calm the public about the spread of Ebola.

On Sunday, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) about the NRA’s role in blocking Murthy’s confirmation, but the Republican senator dismissed the question outright.

Blunt blamed the vacancy on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has yet to put Murthy’s nomination to a full vote, and dismissed questions about the National Rifle Association’s efforts to block the nominee.

“The NRA said they were going to score the vote and suddenly everybody froze him,” said Chuck Todd. “That seems a little petty in hindsight, does it not?”

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Justices decide gay marriage by not deciding

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The Supreme Court faced one of the biggest issues in its history Monday and turned its back.

Rather than decide the issue of same-sex marriage, as virtually everyone involved in the debate expected, the justices simply let stand lower-court rulings striking down bans in five states. Within hours, marriages were set to take place.

Image: AP

And the justices knew their decision to stay out of the grand national debate would have further repercussions: Within days or weeks, gay marriage could be legal in 30 states representing 60% of the U.S. population. Nine more states in the Midwest and West could be added very soon if appeals courts there join the juggernaut.

More including video from USA Today

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Palin Clan Reportedly Involved In Epic ‘Dog Pile’ Fistfight At Snowmobile Party

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Image: sarah palin channel 

On Saturday, September 6, 2014 just before midnight Anchorage police responded to a report of a verbal and physical altercation taking place between multiple subjects outside of a residence located on the 900 block of Harbor Circle. A preliminary investigation by police revealed that a party had been taking place at a nearby residence and a fight had broken out between multiple subjects outside of the residence. At the time of the incident, none of the involved parties wanted to press charges and no arrests were made. However, the case is still an active investigation and is being reviewed by APD and the Municipal Prosecutors Office. Alcohol was believed to have been a factor in the incident. Some of the Palin family members were in attendance at the party.

Full story at TPM

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Gaza and the Silence of Mainstream African-American NGO’s and Churches

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The Global African with Bill Fletcher, Jr. takes on the absence of condemnation for Israel’s attack on Gaza

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KNOW IT ALL: Friday’s Top Stories at NBC News

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Edward Snowden sits down exclusively with NBC News

 The elusive NSA whistleblower will appear in his first American broadcast interview with “NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams. The taped interview will air Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET. Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia, will talk about his role in uncovering the NSA’s wiretapping and spying program.

Image: NBC News

 Thailand’s military junta wants face time with ousted leaders

A day after the military said it was taking control of the government to restore order, its new leaders have summoned 155 political figures to appear before them — or face arrest. Among the leaders who’ll have to answer to the junta is former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who stepped down this month after she was found guilty of abuse of power.

Tennessee brings back electric chair for executions

A shortage of lethal drugs has further muddied executions in the United States. As an alternative method, Tennessee’s governor on Thursday signed a law allowing for the use of the electric chair, although Old Sparky has fallen out of favor in most states. The Tennessee Federal Public Defender’s Office told NBC News it would challenge the new law in court.

More from NBC News

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