COLUMBUS — In the wee hours of Friday morning, the Ohio House had the opportunity to ban Confederate flags at state fairs.
In what was essentially a party-line vote, the Republican majority prevailed and the ban was opposed.
The death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day reignited the debate surrounding the flag on local, state and national levels.
On June 9, Mahoning Matters reported on the Confederate flag that once was displayed in Ron Johnson’s eighth-grade history classroom at Austintown Middle School. The flag was removed at about the time petitions for and against the flag surfaced.
On June 10, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from races after Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr., the sole African American driver in NASCAR’s top racing series, called for the removal of the flag from NASCAR events two days earlier.
In a subsequent Mahoning Matters poll, we asked what readers thought about sales of the flag at the Canfield Fair. About 61 percent of the 469 people who participated as of early Sunday evening voted “no.”
Some commenters argued the flag is part of American history; others said consumers who take offense to the flag don't have to purchase one.
Colleen Carney Duchon wrote: "Can I just bring up, that past the obvious racist impact, Ohio WAS NOT PART OF THE CONFEDERACY! Ohio fought on the side of the United States, not the traitors who fought against the US. It's just stupid."
To many, it is a symbol of slavery, racism and white supremacy. That's how state Rep. Erica Crawley, D-26th, sees it.
On the house floor Friday morning, the Youngstown native and Navy veteran discussed how it felt, as a black child, to attend the Canfield Fair and see Confederate flags being sold and displayed.
Mahoning Matters caught up with Crawley on Friday regarding her speech.
"I'm not welcome," is what the presence of the Confederate flag said to her. "I know that that person, whoever that is, doesn't like black people."
Crawley remembered only going to Canfield to go to the fair. As a child, her mother warned her of the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Canfield.
"It's just something that we always knew," said Crawley. "You're not welcome in Canfield, so stay out of Canfield."
Even if flag sales won’t get banned anytime soon at the state level, calls for local action grew louder last week.
More than 1,500 people have signed a petition urging the Mahoning County Agricultural Society Board of Directors to ban the flag at the Canfield Fair.
“The Confederate flag's historical significance is rooted in racism, slavery, and evil. It has no place in our community and it has no place at the Canfield Fair,” the petition reads.
Crawley agrees that local leaders should take action where the state didn't.
"It is incumbent upon our local leaders and people who are elected to the fair board and agricultural societies to make sure everyone feels welcome," she said.