GETTYSBURG, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota police department has removed a decal from its squad cars that featured a Confederate battle flag next to an American flag, according to local residents.
Dave Mogard, the police chief in Gettysburg, a small city named after the famous Civil War battle, declined to confirm that the decal had been removed, saying Thursday that the City Council would discuss the issue at a meeting Monday.
But several locals, including Selwyn Jones, an uncle of George Floyd, said the decal had been removed from the department’s squad cars and station doors.
Jones called for the change after his nephew, who was Black and handcuffed, died May 25 while being arrested by police in Minneapolis. A white police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd begged for air and eventually stopped moving. Floyd’s death led to charges against four officers who took part in the arrest and to worldwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice.
Gettysburg, which is in central South Dakota and about 190 miles (305 kilometers) west of the state’s largest city, Sioux Falls, was named after the famous 1863 battle in and around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that many view as the turning point of the Civil War.
The police department adopted the emblem in 2009. Bill Wuttke, the mayor of the city of roughly 1,200, has defended the emblem, arguing that it pays tribute to the community’s history and isn’t racist. The city was founded by Civil War veterans, but local historians say they know of only one who fought for the Confederacy.
Wuttke didn’t immediately respond to a Thursday phone message or email seeking comment about the apparent decision to ditch the emblem.
Jones, who has spoken out publicly about his nephew’s death and racial injustice, said he has faced a backlash from members of the community for calling for the emblem’s removal, including abusive comments posted on social media.
The city has faced calls for its removal before, including in 2015 after a white supremacist shot and killed nine people at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
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