Confederate group sues Georgia city over rebel flag removal

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — A Confederate heritage group is suing a Georgia city over the removal of rebel flags and flagpoles from a historic cemetery where more than 500 Confederate soldiers are buried.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans filed the lawsuit Wednesday stating Columbus city leaders violated the organizations civil rights under the “monuments act” by removing Confederate battle flags from Linwood Cemetery, The Ledger-Enquirer reported.

The conflict between the city and the group started in October when the SCV told the city they would fly rebel flags over the 1828 cemetery. Confederate flags were banned from city property, including the cemetery, by former Mayor Teresa Tomlinson because of their link to white supremacy.

Current Mayor Skip Henderson told the group they could fly the Confederacy's first national flag, which resembles the Georgia state flag.

The grouped declined and sent the city a letter on Oct. 11 saying they would fly the battle flag, known for its X-shaped stripes lined with stars. The city told the group that if they did, crews would take it down along with the flagpoles.

According to the lawsuit, Columbus city leaders violated the law and the group's right to free speech under the First and 14th Amendments and breached a 1994 contract that allowed the group to fly the flags. Henderson and city council members rescinded that contract after removing the flags. The city argued that the flags were privately owned and not public monuments, so the monument act doesn't apply.

Columbus has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit. The SCV's attorney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.