West Point sealWest Point Town Manager Anthony Romanello's one-man crusade against the Confederate flag is over. On June 25, West Point Town Attorney Andrea G. Erard ruled that the flag is a form of constitutionally protected speech and may not be barred from the cemetery.

Confederate flags on graves"I believe the town may not single out the Confederate flag for prohibition," Erard said.

Late last month, Romanello had ordered members of the UDC's West Point Chapter to remove the flags they had placed on the graves of Confederate veterans buried in Sunny Slope Cemetery or he would have them removed himself. When pressed for an explanation for his seemingly arbitrary decree, Romanello declared that the Confederate flag might be deemed offensive by some and that its display should not be permitted in a public cemetery.

Although Romanello admitted that no one had lodged a complaint with his office about the placement of Confederate flags at Sunny Slope (something the West Point Chapter has been doing since its reactivation in 1999), he declared that he was the final arbiter of what could be displayed in the cemetery and that he would not condone the presence of the Confederate flag.

As late as last week, Romanello had been confident that the West Point Town Council would uphold his decision. Erard's ruling, which was handed down before the council could consider the question, saved them the trouble.

Following the Monday night meeting of the town council, West Point Mayor R. Burke Johnson offered an apology to a room packed with members of Confederate heritage groups from across the state who had converged on the tiny town to make their voices heard.

"The town never intended to make a decision contrary to state and federal law," Johnson said.

Obviously pleased with the decision, Virginia Division SCV Commander Henry Kidd was still quick to call for an end to "myths and stereotypes" that link the flag with racism. "That flag has our families' blood on it and we will always honor it," said Kidd.

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