Symbol in U.S. spotlight flying high in Central Illinois

Local News

RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — “It fits with the views of many out here, almost 100 percent of the people at this show.”

It’s a symbol that has been in spotlight for weeks sparking violence across the U.S.

Now, it’s flying high in Central Illinois. Some people are flying the confederate flag proudly at the Half Century of Progress this weekend.

It’s a symbol dividing many, but farmers and vendors at the show all seemed to be on the same page even though the country is split on the debate. They say they want the complaining to stop.

Among the antiques, equipment and tractors at the Half Century of Progress Show is the confederate flag.

“The confederate flag bothers me not at all. Not one bit.”

A symbol some across the nation would say is the opposite of progress.

“I’ve seen some, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m just old-school and try to get along with everybody. Everyone to their own opinion is what I’m trying to say.”

Mike Ballas has been a vendor at the show for a decade. His dad and grandfather fought in WW II and he comes from a family of immigrants.

“Doesn’t bother me at all. It’s part of America’s history. It happened. It isn’t my fault.”

A movement to remove confederate symbols and statues in America is gaining momentum in the wake of a violent white supremacy rally in Charlottesville.

The rally left Heather Heyer dead and dozens more hurt. Days later, rallies in Champaign and Decatur focused their anger on neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

But, Ballas says people should learn U.S. history. He says he’s not a fan of President Trump, but he believes it’s time people unite and not grow farther apart.

“Understand what this flag meant to half of this country back in 1865; not just view it as a symbol of division. I wasn’t for slavery not one bit, it was bad for this country. If you don’t learn from history’s mistakes, you will never learn anything.”

Many say they didn’t care and others hadn’t noticed until the flags were pointed out to them.

There are about 1,500 confederate symbols on display in America. The majority were placed between 1900 – 1920, when Jim Crow laws were enacted.

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