Chris Nicolaus used to drive around Fort Lauderdale with a Confederate flag proudly flapping on the antenna of his truck. But in the mornings, he’d find his vehicle had been keyed overnight. He started bringing the flag into his house in the evenings and putting it back up in the mornings, but that became too tedious, so he stopped. It’s a shame, Nicolaus says, because to him, the Confederate flag is an emblem of Southern culture, not racism.
“For some people, it means one thing. For others, it means another,” Nicolaus tells New Times. The 35-year-old has lived in South Florida his whole life. “It might’ve meant something different 135 years ago, but for me it means that I’m Southern and enjoy fishing and hunting and being outdoors in the Everglades. We’re not the KKK.”
Last month, days before the Confederate flag was taken down in Charleston, South Carolina, Nicolaus organized his first Confederate flag rally event. On two days' notice, he was able to bring 40 Confederate flag supporters together at Volunteer Park. They gathered for 35 minutes. Nicolaus thought it was a success but wondered how much better the event could be if organized a little better.
The day after the rally, Nicolaus vowed to organize another rally five weeks later, for Sunday, August 16. According to Facebook, more than 400 people are attending. Confederate flag supporters from all across Florida are making the drive down. A group from Georgia is even expected to attend.
“There’s all this bad publicity with this kid, who did this terrible thing. None of us ever condone something like that,” Nicolaus says. “We don’t think the flag should be banned by the mistakes of an idiot.”
The rally was initially supposed to kick off at Volunteer Park, like the other event. But the Volunteer Park director called Nicolaus and notified him that the event couldn’t start there. Apparently, a growing number of people offended by the flag (especially in the wake of the Charleston church shooting) had been calling the park director urging him to cancel the event. “Somebody called Volunteer Park and said the KKK or something is throwing an event because that’s what everyone associates the flag with,” he says.
But Nicolaus was unfazed. He simply moved the event to Heritage Park in Plantation. And later that day, Occupy Miami posted the numbers to Heritage Park, Plantation Parks and Rec, the Plantation mayor, Broward County Parks and Rec, and Commissioner Martin Kiar on its Facebook page.
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According to Cindy Baker, a Broward county parks spokesperson, the county is aware of the event and has no plans to keep it from happening. “It’s the public’s right to display flags. There have been all sorts of groups that have hosted events here,” Baker tells New Times. “All I can tell you, Plantation Heritage Park is not hosting an event for this Confederate flag rally.”
Despite the opposition, Nicolaus says someone from Heritage Park reached out to him and waived the entrance fee to anyone who is part of the rally. An officer from Plantation Police Department also contacted Nicolaus to tell him that a couple of officers will escort them as a security precaution.
The plan is to meet at noon at Heritage Park. From there, the group will drive to Markham
No opposition protest has been publicly announced, although someone had posted on the Confederate rally event page: “FYI. The Broward Green Party, Dream Defenders, and other