JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State officials took down Confederate flags at two historic sites Tuesday after Democratic presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt said they shouldn't be flown anywhere.
Confederate battle flags were removed at the Confederate Memorial Historic Site and the Fort Davidson Historic Site, said Sue Holst, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The flags will still be displayed inside the sites' visitor centers.
Over the weekend, Gephardt said: "My own personal feeling is that the Confederate flag no longer has a place flying any time, anywhere in our great nation."
Mary Still, spokeswoman for Gov. Bob Holden, said she called Natural Resources Director Steve Mahfood after reading an Associated Press story about Gephardt's statement.
"I told Steve it seemed to me it wouldn't be appropriate to have it flying on a flagpole, but that I didn't know all of their considerations and I left it in his lap," Still said. She said the governor, a former Gephardt aide, didn't know about the conversation.
The Missouri leader of a Confederate heritage organization said politicians were trying to erase state history.
"They take our tax money and then they turn around and try to destroy our heritage," said Gene Dressel, state commander of Sons of Confederate Veterans.
In Atlanta, some 300 people marched to the Capitol, demanding a statewide vote on bringing back the old Georgia flag with its big Confederate emblem.
The current flag, featuring a tiny image of the Confederate emblem, was adopted in 2001 at the behest of Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes. He blamed his ouster last fall on public anger over the new flag.
Barnes' successor, Republican Sonny Perdue, criticized Barnes for changing the flag without public input. On Tuesday, he said he supports a nonbinding public referendum but would leave the details to lawmakers.
Gephardt waded into the flag controversy last weekend after visiting the South Carolina. He said the flag flying at the Confederate Soldier Monument near South Carolina's Statehouse "is a hurtful, divisive symbol and in my view has no place flying anywhere, in any state in this country."
In South Carolina, the flag was removed from the Statehouse dome in July 2000 after an economic boycott led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In Missouri, the flag had flown for decades without controversy or criticism from public officials at the Confederate memorial near Higginsville. The remains of 694 Confederate veterans and 108 wives are buried at the site.
The Fort Davidson site commemorates the 1864 Battle of Pilot Knob.