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Air Force commander bans Rebel flag bumper stickers

By The Associated Press

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 says.

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 Press.

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 battle re-enactments.

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," Reed said.

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 option."


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‘They aren't going to dictate what I put on my truck,’ says Jesse Ethredge, who got in trouble more than 10 years ago over similar slogans. 09.01.01

Honk if you support free speech
Oregon high school abuzz over proposed on-campus bumper-sticker rules. 01.22.03

Ex-city worker challenges firing over Confederate license plate
Federal lawsuit claims Tampa, Fla., officials violated Larry Carpenter's First Amendment rights by dismissing him for refusing to remove tag or park off city property. 03.13.03

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