Gene Stilp

Gene Stilp

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TALLADEGA COUNTY -- A Pennsylvania man has been given a permit to burn a combined Nazi/Confederate battle flag Sunday just outside the Talladega Superspeedway.

Gene Stilp has carried out similar demonstrations at the Pennsylvania State Fair and Dover International Speedway in Delaware. He said both events took place without any violence.

Talladega County Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore sent Stilp an email Wednesday saying an area “directly off Speedway Boulevard at the entrance leading to both the speedway and the Talladega airport” have been designated for the demonstration.

Stilp had specified that he wanted his demonstration to take place on public property, not track property.

“This is also located directly across the boulevard from the main entrance to the Talladega Dirt Track as well,” Kilgore wrote in the email to Stilp. “This location should provide you with plenty of exposure to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic without impeding either. Keeping in mind your group’s personal safety concerns, there will also be Alabama State Troopers posted at this intersection as well as my deputies.”

According to a previous press release from Stilp, “The small demonstration consists of displaying a small, two-sided flag. One side of the flag is the Confederate flag commonly known as the Confederate Battle Flag, and on the other is a Nazi flag.

“The combination flag shows that the misguided values expressed by the Confederate flag are similar to the horrible values symbolized by the Nazi flag. Those horrible values include racism, hatred, bigotry, slavery, white supremacy and death …

“After a short explanation of what the combination Confederate/Nazi flag stands for, the flag is safely burned in a metal trash can, and the demonstration ends. The flames from the burning flag are safely contained in the trash can. It is a small, First Amendment demonstration to graphically express the similarity of what both flags stand for.”

Stilp said Wednesday he will begin setting up around 9 a.m. Sunday, and the demonstration should start around 10.

News of the demonstration has been posted on social media since it was announced last week, “and we have gotten some negative comments over the last few days, but that happens,” Stilp said. “Mostly, the response has been good, although I understand it has been picked up by some alt right groups … There have been some threats, but I’m not worried … This will be an education for those who want to be open-minded about what these flags really stand for. Other people will be closed-minded.”

Stilp launched an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2012 but is well-known in his home state for public advocacy and filing suit against public agencies. He is perhaps best known for suing the state Legislature after Pennsylvania lawmakers voted themselves a pay raise in 2005. The raise was later repealed.