While Ohioans were sleeping, House
Democratic lawmakers were offering two amendments on the
House floor late Thursday and early Friday that would have
prohibited the sale, display, possession or distribution of
Confederate memorabilia at county and independent fairs,
following a similar rule instituted by the Ohio State Fair
in 2015. The motions came during floor debate on House Bill
665, which made several other changes to laws on local and
county fairs. The U.S. Marines recently announced similar
bans on Confederate memorabilia. Republicans rejected the
amendments largely along party lines, voting instead to
protect the sale of the Confederate flag.
"The Confederate flag is a banner of white
supremacy and a reminder of our nation’s original sin of
slavery," said Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland), the Ranking
Democrat on the Agriculture Committee and sponsor of the
floor amendments. "That Republicans in the Ohio House cannot
bring themselves to vote to condemn and prohibit these
displays of white supremacy and outright racism at our local
and county exhibitions—the places where we go to celebrate
the best of Ohio—is a real shame, and a black eye on this
institution. If you don’t stand up to white supremacists,
you stand with them."
The amendments come amid continued
demonstrations in dozens of cities and towns across Ohio
where protesters have called for an end to police brutality,
white supremacy and racism in the United States following
the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"Ohio was a part of the Union. The failure
to oppose a symbol of treason is absurd," said Minority
Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). "The symbolism that
the Confederate flag represents is racism and oppression of
Black and indigenous people. The Republican-led legislature
should not be using taxpayer funds to promote hate and
treason. Ohioans deserve better. The fact that Republicans
are unwilling to listen to the diverse voices of Ohioans
requesting to respect Black lives goes to show the
disconnect between what the people want, and what the
Republican-led legislature is willing to do. "
One of Brent’s amendments would have cut
state funding to county and independent fairs who allow the
sale of Confederate memorabilia. Republicans tabled that
amendment as well.
House Bill 665 passed the House and now
moves to the Senate for consideration.
Here is what other Democrats said on the
"31,000 Ohio Union soldiers sacrificed their
lives to fight that flag and everything it represents. To
fly it here or anywhere in Ohio is a flagrant disrespect of
those men," said Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson). "When the
Allies defeated the fascist Nazi regime, they banned the
public display of the Nazi flag, a flag that like the
Confederate flag represented the systematic destruction of
human life. For Nazism to die, the flag had to die. That
same understanding has been coming for a long time in the
United States and in Ohio, but that time has come."
"The [Confederate] flag isn’t just a piece
of cloth to make a political statement or to show pride,
it’s a tool to instill terror in minority populations. It’s
not an issue of history or white pride, it’s a statement of
white power," said Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma). "This is
the same flag that’s been adopted by extremist groups, and
proudly displayed by racist organizations like the KKK… It’s
too little and too late for lip service about healing
divisions—it’s time to show it with your actions…Enough is
"I represent an urban district, but my roots
are rural. I understand that fairs are the fabric of our
community. I believe the Confederate flag is a symbol that
glorifies white supremacy, slavery and treason," said
Assistant Minority leader Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus).
"We need to be done talking and take action."
"We have a handful of times in our lives
that we can make a difference, that we can do what’s right,
that we can stand up for ourselves and future generations.
Let it be said we did the right thing," said Rep. John
"We have an opportunity to set a new
standard, create a new legacy, one in which we are taking a
bold step," said Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson
(D-Toledo). "I stand as a descendant of the original sin of
this country, and I stand and pledge allegiance to a flag
that sometimes I don’t feel gives justice for all. Today,
last week, tomorrow, the tide is turning. We can make a
"As elected officials at every level of
government…we are fiscal agents responsible for the good
stewardship of taxpayer dollars…I don’t think it is at all
appropriate to use taxpayer dollars in a way that will allow
vendors to perpetuate white supremacy," said Rep. Erica
Crawley (D-Columbus). "Hiding behind an argument that
possibly infringes on the first amendment rights…is
hypocritical when this legislature passed a bill that
clearly infringed upon constitutional rights and yet the
majority passed the bill anyway."
"What we’re trying to do is not a little
thing…it’s the single step we’re doing here today that means
something, just like the stool in the Woolworth, the seat in
the school, or the bus seat in Alabama," said Rep. David
Leland (D-Columbus). "You can vote against this, you can say
that you don’t like it, but this is exactly what this
legislature did in the 132nd General Assembly [in HCR 10].
You can’t hide behind the First Amendment because this is
the exact same thing we did in the 132nd General Assembly."