Disrespecting the dead, never a good idea.
After news broke and made national headlines that Confederate flags had been removed from the graves of soldiers in Union Springs, officials revealed that more flags have been placed out at the cemetery.
A prominent attorney admitted to taking the flags, a move that’s sparked both positive reaction and calls for him to be arrested and disbarred. He’s also received death threats and hate mail.
The lawyer says his actions are meant to promote unity.
A bag of small Confederate flags now sits at Union Springs City Hall. They were removed from graves at an old Confederate cemetery downtown, behind the Red Door Theater, near the intersection of Highway 82 and North Prairie Street.
Myron Penn pulled up the flags with his family on Mother’s Day. Penn, a founding partner at Penn & Seaborn Attorneys at Law in Union Springs, who served as state senator for two terms and as chairman of the Bullock County Commission, says he did it for his four-year-old son.
“The reason why we picked them up is because the image of the flags in our community, a lot of people feel that they’re a symbol of divisiveness and oppression of many people in our community,” Penn said. “Especially with the history that that flag and the connotation and negativism that it brings. I would think that no one in our community would have a problem with this or with my actions at all.”
While some support what Penn did, others are outraged. The story has spread on social media.
“I just thought it was great when he did that. He said that he came up there with his little boy and I thought it was absolutely great,” said Tchernavia Blackmon, a Union Springs resident. “He did the right thing. I wish I had been out there to help him pick up the flags. He did a great job.”
“It’s not about race or the flag or anything else. It’s about decency and respect for the dead. You don’t do stuff like that,” added Rebecca Atkins, who has family members who were Confederate soldiers. “You got to give respect where it’s deserved and those soldiers gave their lives just like any other soldier gives their lives. It’s nothing racial and it’s not about discrimination. You look at the person who served for our country and that’s what matters.”
Others say it was criminal, citing Alabama Code 13A-7-23.1 which states that it’s against the law to “willfully and wrongfully or maliciously destroy, remove, cut, break, or injure any tree, shrub, plant, flower, decoration, or other real or personal property within any cemetery or graveyard.”
Penn responded to the backlash and says no laws were broken since he left the items at City Hall for anyone to claim and pick up. He says the city typically removes the flags after Confederate Memorial Day anyway.
“I invite anyone to say how I’ve broken the law by removing the flags,” Penn said. “They’re making my point with the ugly comments and the meanness. It’s exactly why those flags shouldn’t be there in our community because that’s not what our community stands for. We want our community to grow. We want all of our people, especially our children to feel as though they’re growing up in a community that is not divided. I would think that everyone here in Bullock County feels the same way.”