ETX Sons of Confederate Veterans group says they are misundersto - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

ETX Sons of Confederate Veterans group says they are misunderstood

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PALESTINE, TX (KLTV) -

A group of East Texas men say they are being unfairly discriminated against by local city officials.

The John H. Reagan camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans says the city of Palestine will not let them participate in the town's Dogwood Trails Festival.

The men say they have participated in city events before and do not understand the sudden ban.

"They just kind of rejected us, you know, which kind of made us feel like maybe they thought we were a bad element or something. I don't think they really even understand what we're about," says Gary Williams, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member.

The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce did not want to go on camera but the board of directors released this statement,

"The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce is FOR building a stronger community.  Our volunteers spend countless hours doing so. It is not in the community's best interest to allow politically divisive groups to participate in the Dogwood Trails parade or to be a vendor at the Festival. We are charged with the responsibility to operate on behalf of the city of Palestine."

The Sons of Confederate Veterans says they do not know why they're being called "politically divisive."

"For the first time in my life, I'm beginning to feel what it feels like to be discriminated against or have people not be very tolerant of whatever it is I'm trying to do or stand up for," Williams says.

The men say there are some misconceptions about their organization.

"When people hear the word Confederate they assume one thing and it may not be true," says Doug Smith, also a member of Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"The reason we exist is to keep the memory of our confederate ancestors alive," says Williams.

This is not the first time this group has met controversy. Back in 2011, they were allowed to raise the first national flag of the Confederacy above the Anderson County Courthouse for Confederate History and Heritage month.

Protests ensued so the group took the flag down and set out to buy private property to fly it on. They purchased land a few blocks away from downtown Palestine and are building a memorial plaza where several different Confederate flags will fly.

"Hopefully we'll put the negative behind us and we'll start a whole new chapter and a positive contribution to Palestine," Smith says.

That new chapter starts with the opening of their memorial next month.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans will be set up on their property, where that memorial is being built, during this weekend's Dogwood Festival.

They say they'll have Confederate relics on display and want to share information about the role Confederate history plays in the founding of Palestine.

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