A North Carolina town is drawing criticism due to what some have characterized as prejudiced and racist overtones of an entry in its Fourth of July parade.
According to Hope Mills, N.C., parade watchers (and photos), one trailer displayed a sign: "White History Month" followed by, "HUG WTE PPL," reported WNCN-TV.
And at least two tractors had big Confederate battle flags behind them, one tractor was also pulling a trailer of watermelons, and other signs on other tractors read, "I didn't vote for Obama" and "God loves rednecks," WNCN-TV said.
The director of parks and recreation for Hope Mills, which is just south of Fayetteville, is responsible for organizing the parade, and Kenny Bullock said he received complaints about the signs. Mayor Jackie Warner and town commissioner Pat Edwards said they also received complaints, the station reported.
Bullock said farmer Donnie Spell applied for the entry in the parade and listed 8 to 10 antique tractors and a trailer of watermelons for sale as part of his entry, WNCN said, adding there was no mention of the signs.
More from WNCN-TV:
Bullock, Edwards and parade watcher Alicia Jones said the tractors, the confederate flags and the trailer of watermelons had been in at least one previous parade. Spell regularly showed his tractors and confederate flags in the town's parades, Edwards said.
Bullock said the previous entries were allowed as free speech. However, he said the "White History Month" sign combined with the other elements of the parade entry went too far. Bullock apologized for the incident and said the parade wasn't the right place for someone to express potential offensive views.
For Jones, the "White History Month" sign was blatantly offensive. She said she was watching the parade with her son and she was surprised by the implied message.
"At that time his innocence was broken, and I had to sit there in the parade and explain to my son what that meant - what all those signs meant - at seven years old," Jones said. "I mean it really caught me off-guard.
"I think there needs to be an apology, and [Spell] needs to not be able to submit – to be in any parade again."
Spell could not be reached Friday. There was not response to a message left with a relative of Spell's. [...]
"I know where they're coming from, and I know some of them were hurt by it, and it's just something that happened, and I'm sorry it happened," Edwards said.
Edwards, Legge and Warner said they do not think Spell intended to be malicious, just to express his views. They said he has done many good things for the town of Hope Mills.
The tractor with the Confederate flag and the racial signs drew criticism on the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Facebook page.
"The parade was great. Right up until the prejudiced rednecks. Shame on the city of Hope Mills," posted Stephanie Carter Tisdale.
"Parade had racial overtones; lots of Confederate flags, Obama bashing sticker on a tractor, and a John Deere tractor had a poster that reads "WHITE HISTORY MONTH HUG WTE PPL." Certainly, a celebration of independence parade is not the place to bring up these issues. Hope Mills should do better," wrote Michael Kenneth.
"I was absolutely astounded that Confederate flags were allowed to be so widely displayed within the parade. And judging by the comments from folks around me, myself and my husband weren't the only ones who were shocked and disappointed. The "white people" sign that was on one trailer, mentioned above, was at best a joke in incredibly poor taste," posted Megan Green.
Here's a news report about the issue from WNCN-TV:
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