Display of Confederate flag at Utah County Fair sparks criticism

Posted at 9:27 PM, Aug 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-20 23:33:31-04

SPANISH FORK, Utah - Controversy over Confederate flags have intensified in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In Utah county, the debate is playing out after a driver displayed a Confederate flag at a demolition derby.

Anticipation was building Saturday night for the popular event at the Utah County Fair held at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds.

"In the area where I was sitting, around me as everybody came in you'd always hear everybody yelling and screaming for a particular driver as the event goes on," said Greg Graves, Utah County Commissioner.

Graves was in the stands with his family. He says the mood shifted when a car came car in flying a Confederate flag.

"At least around me the clapping kinda stopped once they saw a flag," he said. "It was definitely something that caught me off guard. What's the statement we're trying to make?"

Mike Stansfield is the director of the Utah County Fair. He says organizers had no idea beforehand that the 17-year-old driver was going to fly a Confederate flag. If so, they would have told him to take it down.

"I think as a nation and as a people we have to reject bigotry and prejudice and any kind of hate message," Stansfield said.

The young man's mother, who wished to remain anonymous, told Fox 13 her son put the flag on his car after an inspection and didn't mean any harm.

"I'm frustrated," she said of the situation. "If they had a problem with it the organizers at the derby could have said, 'Hey, we'd appreciate if you didn't fly this flag.' And he would have been more than happy to be like, 'OK, fine.'"

She said he didn't mean to offend anyone by displaying the flag.

"It means being able to protect your family, your home and your country," she said of her son's perspective on the Confederate flag.

But Graves says the gesture was out of line.

"Having lived in Georgia for a little while the flag has a different meaning maybe to me then it does to others," he said. "I just know that sometimes we need to be a little more mindful."