LEESBURG, Va. - An activist protesting hate burned a combined Nazi-Confederate battle flag in Leesburg.
As the clock ticked toward noon on Tuesday, which was the time Gene Stilp had on his permit to burn the flag, he ignited it on the grounds of the courthouse – just steps from a statue commemorating the service of Confederate soldiers.
"Both of these value systems represent racism, bigotry, hatred, intimidation against races, white supremacy and death,” said Stilp. “So my point is that this is a great graphic way to demonstrate that and also to confine it to the trash bin of history.”
As curious people lined a fence to watch, about a dozen police officers and sheriff's deputies kept an eye out for trouble. There were no issues except for a few hecklers who let it be known that they thought the Confederate battle flag represented heritage rather than hate.
But in the circle of voices, there was support for what Stilp was doing as well. As soon as the flag was lit, it smoldered out in the trash bin and Stilp had made his point.
One person who thought Stilp had chosen the wrong location for his protest was the spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Leesburg.
"I find it fundamentally strange that he would come to Leesburg and do this demonstration,” said Rick Turner of the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Leesburg. “I know he has done it before. I don't think this town merits it first of all, but conflating the Nazi swastika with the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia – you can have that opinion but I think it is just factually, historically and morally incorrect.”