BILOXI, Miss. — Confederate bumper stickers adorning the cars of
about a dozen civilian workers at Keesler Air Force base must be removed or
shielded from the public eye because they are distracting, a squadron commander
Employees at the base's civil engineering squadron have been ordered
to park their vehicles so Rebel flag decals or tags aren't visible from the
squadron building where about 300 people work.
In a meeting this week, Lt. Col. Al Trivette gave employees the choice
of removing the flags, which many consider racist, or moving the cars.
Trivette did not return phone calls yesterday from the Associated
The order was criticized by some workers who say they have a right to
express themselves and park where they want.
"I'm not going to park where he tells me to park," said Robert L.
Reed, who mounted a Rebel flag license plate on his vehicle about a year ago to
oppose efforts to remove the flag from state banners in Mississippi and
elsewhere in the South.
Base carpenter Mark Lerch said he and other workers who sport the flag
on their vehicles must walk an extra 100 yards because of the order. Lerch said
he mounted his Rebel flag license plate so he would be identified at Civil War
The commander has the authority to order the flags removed, said
Belinda Bazinet, director of public affairs.
She said the base equal opportunity office did a climate assessment
and found that the display of the Confederate battle flag was disrupting order
and discipline in the squadron.
She said a large number of people had complained that they were
bothered by the flag displays.
"Of course, there is the First Amendment, but (the commander) does
have the authority to go beyond that," Bazinet.
Keesler's policy on the Rebel flag dates to 1987. It cannot be flown
on base housing.
Reed and others plan to test the commander's authority.
"As far as I'm concerned, I can park anywhere in the country I want,"
Maj. David Evers, the executive officer, says employees who disobey
the order will face disciplinary action. He says the base command is in touch
with worker unions over the issue.
"They would not be initially fired," Evers said. "That's the harshest