The Astoria Regatta apologized today for Confederate flag displays on Saturday during the Grand Land Parade downtown.
Organizers described the displays from Sons of Beaches, an off-road enthusiast group, as an unfortunate incident and said it was an oversight that the symbols were not caught at the start of the parade.
“The Astoria Regatta Association deeply regrets the display of a Confederate flag on one of the many vehicles in the winning entry in this year’s land parade and the offense it caused to so many attendees,” the association said in a statement. “We stated earlier that the flag was not flown during judging. Yet, it appears that the flag may in fact have been in place. However, the vehicles were never part of the judging. The judging was for the memorial float portion of this entry only.
“It was a further oversight we missed Confederate flag stickers on the float itself during judging. We deeply regret the impression caused that Regatta in any way supports or condones the display of the Confederate flag. Moving forward, we will seek legal counsel to determine what limitations we may place on displays in the future.
“Please do not let our oversight reflect negatively on Astoria, or the many, many volunteers who give thousands of hours to create a positive community event each year. The Astoria Regatta Association will learn from this incident and continue working to create safe, positive community experiences for all.”
Sons of Beaches, an off-road enthusiast group that also participates in community charity events and parades, constructed the float for the parade. Jay Pitman, the group’s leader, said the float featured several bumper sticker-sized decals with Confederate logos as it had for the past several years. A red truck also followed behind with a Confederate flag.
Pitman said the float included several battle flags from throughout American history and that they were intended to honor war veterans.
“We don’t fly our flag with disrespect,” Pitman said. “We fly it with respect to all of our veterans. We do not allow any personal political issues or personal agendas. We are non-biased, non-racist. We are about Americanism and supporting local law enforcement and first responders.”
The timing of the display in Astoria was sensitive because of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday after demonstrations by white nationalists protesting the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Confederate flags were flown by several demonstrators in Virginia.
Pitman said he was not aware of the act of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville before or during the parade. He said the group is now considering removing the flag from future parade events.
Laurie Caplan, the co-chair of Indivisible North Coast Oregon, said in an email Sunday night that several people were outraged by the display of the Confederate flag. “The flag has become much more a symbol of racism and violence than a token from the Civil War, which was an armed rebellion against the U.S. government,” she wrote. “Some had friends who left in disgust after seeing the flag in the parade.”
Astoria City Councilor Cindy Price posted on Facebook Sunday that “display of the Confederate flag is bigotry, hatred, and a readiness to commit violence, disguised as First Amendment protected speech. Let’s have the wisdom to know the difference, and the will to prohibit it. And let’s be kind to one another.”