RINGGOLD, Ga. — The mayor and council of Ringgold are being sued by a Southern heritage group because the city removed the Confederate battle flag from the Ringgold Depot.
The lawsuit was filed Friday by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Georgia Division and the Col. Joseph T. McConnell camp of the group. Assisting is the Southern Legal Resource Center based in Black Mountain, N.C.
“It is not lost on Southerners who are keenly aware that suddenly everyone is allowed to be diverse except for them,” Roger W. McCredie, executive director of the Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC), said from the Catoosa County Courthouse steps.
Wearing a bow tie with a Confederate flag pattern, Mr. McCredie said the SLRC is the only legal organization that specializes in cases involving Southern culture and heritage.
The local group of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has protested for three years after city officials on a 3-2 vote in March 2005 agreed to take down the battle flag in the wake of objections by some local black residents.
The familiar battle flag was replaced with the regimental flag of Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne, whose troops held off Union soldiers at Ringgold Gap in late 1863, allowing troops from the South to withdraw toward Dalton. The battle that resulted in damage to the historic depot, which is now a history museum.
Ringgold City Manager Dan Wright said on Friday that city officials had not yet seen the lawsuit.
Mr. McCredie said the SLRC was formed to protect people who were being fired from jobs, punished at school, “discriminated against and worse, simply for doing nothing more than expressing their own heritage.”
Kirk D. Lyons, chief trial counsel of the SLRC, said the regimental flag was “a unit flag with limited significance,” is unrecognizable to most and thus “is not an appropriate flag to memorialize Confederate soldiers.”
He noted the lawsuit does not seek punitive damages, but asks that the battle flag be returned to the pole and that defendants pay court and attorneys’ fees.
“We believe (the battle flag) is an integral part of a memorial aspect of the depot,” Mr. Lyons said.