ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia city did not violate the constitutional rights of a Sons of Confederate Veterans group when it banned the Confederate battle flag from its annual parade honoring veterans of American wars, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
Richard Leake and Michael Dean sued Alpharetta, an Atlanta suburb, in August 2019 after city officials said the Sons of Confederate Veterans could participate in the annual Old Soldiers Day Parade but could not display the battle flag. The federal civil rights lawsuit accused the city of violating the group's right to free speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
U.S. District Judge William Ray in June 2020 ruled in favor of the city, finding that the parade amounted to government speech. Leake and Dean appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel of the appeals court heard arguments in the case on Friday and on Tuesday issued an opinion upholding the lower court's ruling.
“Because governments are not obliged under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to permit the presence of a rebellious army's battle flag in the pro-veterans parades that they fund and organize, we affirm," Circuit Chief Judge William Pryor wrote in the opinion.
The battle emblem, which has a red background topped by a blue X with 13 white stars, has been condemned and removed along with other symbols of the Confederacy amid protests against racial injustice. In 2020, Mississippi dropped its Confederate-themed flag and, elsewhere, monuments to Southern figures,