RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A second Confederate battle flag is flying high over Interstate 95 in Stafford, despite the massive backlash over last year's flag, flown in Chester. The Virginia Flaggers group raised this additional flag on Saturday, re-igniting a debate over this controversial symbol's meaning.
The Virginia Flaggers say they wanted to commemorate nearly 246,000 Confederate ancestors who fought in battles around the Fredericksburg area, such as in Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, and the Wilderness.
The second flag is both taller and bigger than the first, standing 80 feet high, well above the tree line, and measuring 20 by 30 feet in size.
Virginia Flagger Barry Isenhour says donations only grew since last year's flag became widely publicized.
"A lot of donations flew in throughout the country and actually from overseas," said Isenhour.
Last September's flag raising drew fierce opposition, even though the move is totally legal, with the flag standing on private property. More than 24,000 people signed an online petition against the Confederate flag in Chester. A huge American flag flew in response, near Richmond City Hall.
Still, the Virginia Flaggers maintain they're about Southern heritage, and not slavery.
"If you read your American history, it was the most American thing to do... to rebel against the tyranny of a government that was oppressive...had nothing to do with slaves," continued Isenhour.
Virginia House Delegate Jennifer McClellan is vice chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, aiming to preserve civil rights and history within the state. McClellan says the Confederate flag symbolizes slavery, for many.
"If you read the actual documents of secession, that the states passed when they left the Union, it was all about slavery," said Representative McClellan.
McClellan believes the only way for the South to move forward is to truly recognize the past for what it was.
"If they are going to memorialize their ancestors, then they need to embrace the truth about their ancestors. And we will not be able to heal as a society until we do that, and we have an honest conversation and move forward," continued Representative McClellan.
"(We must) remind people of our Confederate heritage, meaning the Confederate soldiers who fought for freedom," countered Isenhour.
Last year, the Virginia director of the NAACP was quoted saying he was "appalled ...and deeply embarrassed" by the Confederate flag being raised in Chester.
The Virginia Flaggers say they have plans to continue to raise more flags, in the future.