Saturday, October 23, 2021

North Carolina stops issuing Confederate flag license plates

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North Carolina transportation officials are slamming the brakes on specialty license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag.

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles will no longer issue or renew specialty plates bearing the Confederate symbol or any variation of it, effective Jan. 1, 2021.

“The [DMV] has determined that license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag have the potential to offend those who view them,” the agency said in a statement released Monday. “We have therefore concluded that display of the Confederate battle flag is inappropriate for display on specialty license plates, which remain property of the state.”

The agency will, however, keep recognizing the state’s division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans as a civic organization entitled to receiving a specialty plate. DMV officials cited a 1998 court case in which the Confederate group successfully sued North Carolina to qualify as a civic organization that met the criteria for specialty plates.

“However, SCV’s classification as a civic organization does not entitle it to dictate the contents of the government speech on that specialty plate,” the DMV’s statement continued.

The agency said it reached out to work with SCV reps to develop license plate artwork that doesn’t feature the Confederate battle flag, but those efforts “have proven unsuccessful,” leading the DMV to no longer issue or renew them altogether.

“DMV remains open to considering alternative artwork for review and to resuming the issuance of specialty plates for members of SCV,” its statement continued. “Until such agreement can be reached, DMV will either issue SCV members standard plates and refund any specialty-plate fees paid or provide them with different specialty plates.

The change — first reported Monday by the Wilmington StarNews — came six months after the state’s DMV acknowledged to the newspaper that it had received complaints about the Confederate flag in July as the nation was reeling from George Floyd’s police-custody death in Minneapolis.

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The agency said at the time it had no plans to change its policy toward the Confederate plates – when more than 2,500 were active throughout the state, StarNews reported.

A total of 413 of SCV’s plates were issued in 2019, with another 386 last year, a North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman told The Post.

A spokesman for North Carolina’s SCV chapter, meanwhile, said they plan to pursue legal action regarding the change and have already contacted attorneys.

“Our plates were issued under a court order and it was upheld by the N.C. Court of Appeals,” spokesman Frank Powell told StarNews. “I don’t care who is the commissioner of the Department of Transportation is, they cannot violate the ruling.”

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