Confederate Flag Disappears After Outcry And Community Action

Hamilton resident and “Freedom Convoy” supporter Robert Pelton believes in an alternative history of the Civil War, and that his Confederate flag has “nothing to do with hate and slavery.”

Canadian Anti-Hate Network



Nurse, podcaster, and anti-racism educator Amie Archibald-Varley, a Black woman, tweeted a message about seeing a Confederate Battle Flag waving in her town. When commenters responded with skepticism and disbelief, she took a video. 

“For those people who didn’t believe when I said, ‘yeah, there’s a Confederate flag in our neighbourhood,’ there you go,” she says from behind the camera. “This is Hamilton, Ontario. Welcome to Hamilton, Ontario.”

Archibald-Varley’s advocacy against the flag has been met with harassment and anti-Black racism, including the use of the N-word and a death threat

The CBC picked up the story and visited the house with the Confederate flag. At the time, the homeowner wouldn’t give his name and he told reporters that he didn’t care what other people thought about the flag. 

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In response, a community walk and petition drive was organized by Archibald-Varley, the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre, Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, and the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. 

The anti-racism walk called for the passing of MP Peter Julian’s Bill C-229, which the Canadian Anti-Hate Network helped draft. The bill would clarify for law enforcement that unmistakable symbols of hatred like the swastika and Confederate flag are already illegal under Criminal Code s. 319(2): Willful Promotion of Hate. 

Archibald-Varley returned to the street the day after the march and found that the flag had disappeared. 

The owner has not responded to follow up questions asking if he has had a change of heart and if the flag will stay down.

 

“Bone Up On Your History”

 

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network identified Pelton by searching public property records and social media postings. Several pictures and memes including the Confederate battle flag are on his Facebook profile. Pelton’s identity was first made public by The Spec.

 

Pictures of Robert Pelton taken from his social media.

 

“You need to bone up on your history. It has nothing to do with hate or slavery or white supremacy,” Pelton told the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “That’s what those type of people have turned it into. I’ve been flying that flag for a lot of years with no complaints. 

“One woman drives down the road looking to bring herself attention. She can have all she wants. She doesn’t know me or my family.” 

He added that his Black friends have no issue with the flag and also offered a link to a short video that denies slavery was central to the American Civil War.

“Take your anti-hate speeches to those who really need it. When you learn the truth about the flag and the Civil War get back to me,” he wrote.

The Bitchute video sent by Pelton was posted by “true-aryan,” an account that also posts racist videos, videos supporting the “Freedom Convoy” in February, videos about aliens, and Russian propaganda. In an antisemitic video about the “JQ” or “Jewish Question,” the account holder identifies himself as a National Socialist (Nazi). 

Editor’s note: There is nothing to suggest that Pelton and “true-aryan” are the same person, or that he intentionally picked a video from a Nazi’s account to share with us.

Pelton, who posted the same video on his Facebook page in 2020, did not address follow up questions about the video and its source. 

“The one last thing I’m going to tell you is there is no hate or racism in this house.”

Pelton’s social media history includes several Islamophobic posts, including reposting an article with the headline “Europe Needs To Destroy Islam If They Are Going To Survive.” He also reposted a Breitbart article from the page “Proud To Be An Infidel ‘Kafir’,” and a Rebel Media article that takes the position that RCMP uniforms including a hijab are “unCanadian.” 

Pelton’s older posts take aim at then-Premier Kathleen Wynne. In one case he shared an image that refers to her as a “b****” and a “c***.”

In 2020, Pelton posted an article about a Royal Canadian Air Force Base raising the transgender flag for the first time with the comment “What in the hell is the world coming to,” and a clown emoji.

 

Picture posted to Robert Pelton's Facebook account.

 

Pelton is also anti-vaccine and a supporter of the so-called Freedom Convoy. A comment from a family member suggests that he is not just a supporter, but that he was in Ottawa for part of the occupation.

On February 10, the family member asks if Pelton is going to a rally in Niagara falls next weekend “at the Bridge crossing over to the States.” (On February 12th, some truckers protested near Peace Bridge, shutting down lanes of the QEW.) 

“Glad you got back safely. Niagara is a lot closer Ottawa for you… you call me and let me know if your going too this Rally since you enjoyed the one in Ottawa.”

The more popular Confederate flag with a red background and crossed blue lines containing 13 stars was not the national flag of the Confederate States of America, but rather one of many battle flags used by the rebel army.

Confederate flags were repopularized in the Jim Crow era and today the Confederate battle flag represents anti-Black racism, chattel slavery, and the murder of Black people. Despite never being flown by an army or government in Canada, the flag is a common feature in Canada’s far-right imagery.

In defending his decision to the CBC to fly the flag, Pelton added that he would buy the General Lee – the vehicle from Dukes of Hazard television series – and park it in his driveway if he could. However, the official “General Lee” does not have a Confederate flag on its roof anymore. 

In 2015 a neo-Nazi, who had posted photos of the Confederate battle flag, murdered nine people at a historic Black church in Charleston, North Carolina. The racist mass murder sparked a national conversation about the flag and what it represents. This prompted the owner of the General Lee, PGA golfer Bubba Watson, to paint over the Confederate battle flag on the roof of the car. 

He told ESPN at the time that the show is not racist, but that if the flag offends people, it is worth removing it. 

 

Hate in Hamilton

 

For years Hamilton has had Canada’s highest per-capita rates of hate crime, and it is getting worse. A Hamilton Police Service report released on Thursday shows a 35 per cent increase in police-reported hate incidents in 2021.

Hamilton police reported a total of 108 hate/bias incidents last year compared to 80 in 2020 according to their 2021 Hate/Bias Statistical Report. Police detect as little as one per cent of all hate incidents, according to data from Statistics Canada.

In 2021, the City of Hamilton banned the display of swastikas and the flag on all publicly owned property. This has little impact as the ban does not extend to privately owned lands unless the display runs afoul of the criminal code.

“There is no inherent ability on the part of the municipality to limit an individual’s (Charter) freedom of expression on private property,” read a city report from the time.

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