A 71-year-old man in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has installed 150 Confederate battle flags around his house, and he’s not about to take them down.
Edward West, who lives in a predominately African-American neighborhood, had a few Confederate flags around his house before the murders at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week, but after the incident, he raised the number of flags exponentially to 150.
When WITN asked West what the flags meant to him, he replied succinctly, “It means I got my own property and nobody can tell me what to do with it.” Asked why he had so many flags, West answered, “That’s for me to know. That’s cause I wanted ‘em.” When he was queried as to why some people protest his flags, West bluntly replied, “Cause they’re black. They misread.”
The flags cover West’s property, from the front yard to the backyard, from the fence around the property to the roof of his home. “No parking” and “no trespassing” signs dot the property, which is also guarded by barbed wire.
Some black neighbors acknowledged that West was a nice person; others said he wants to make them fearful.
One black member of the community, TJ Harris, told WITN, “They offend me, yeah. I ain’t goin’ to lie to you and say it don’t. But we live in a society where people could do what they want to do.”
Another black neighbor, Tameka Bell, added, “Of course, if you have stuff like this around, it’s gonna cause a lot of animosity, y’know. After a while it’s going to be a big problem.”
Rocky Mount city officials said West’s flags are legal; one spokeswoman for the city said the flags are protected because they are on private property, stating that no complaints have been filed.
West asserted that he does not belong to any organized group.
Rocky Mount was the site of the Rocky Mount Mills, a cotton mill that was “one of the biggest industrial complexes in North Carolina.” It “became the target of a Union cavalry raid during the Civil War.” The Mills were built in 1818 and closed in 1996.