PORTSMOUTH, RI (CBS) – Many people find displaying the Confederate flag to be extremely offensive. One of our viewers did when he saw one flying at a campground in Rhode Island last weekend.
He wants to know how displaying such a divisive symbol can be allowed, especially since the campground is on town owned land. Part of the answer may be the First Amendment.
“It’s offensive. I think it’s offensive,” says Roy Paris from Tewksbury. He was outraged when he saw the Confederate flag on an RV during his stay at the Melville Ponds Campground in Portsmouth, RI. “It’s become even more offensive now to the point that the southern states are starting to remove it from their public properties,” he says.
The flag was down when WBZ went to the campground Wednesday, but two other flag symbols were still there, one with the message “fighting terrorism since 1861.”
The person who owns the RV was not home, but a neighbor talked to us. “I have no problem with it. I don’t think it’s anything that should be discriminated against, one way or the other. It’s freedom of expression as far as I’m concerned,” says a woman who would only say her name is Sue.
“What upsets me the most is that the flag was hung in a public place. Town property as a matter of fact,” says Roy Paris.
He’s right. The campground in essence leases the land from the town. We talked to the town’s attorney who said in a statement: “The town of Portsmouth certainly does not endorse or condone the display of this flag.”
However, the lawyer also says the town can’t do anything about the symbols because of the operating agreement and because of the concern over limiting free speech. In another statement, the campground managers would only say: “We appreciate and take seriously all feedback as we work tirelessly to deliver a wholesome and inclusive camping experience.”
The campground would not say whether the RV owner works for the facility, as several campers told us. “I’ll definitely never go back to that campground again,” Paris says.
Paris says he was told by someone from the campground that the flag was taken down “temporarily.”
The campground managers would not tell us one way or the other.