Sons of the Southern Cross lawsuit continues over Confederate flag in Christmas parade

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
The Sons of the Southern Cross have filed a federal lawsuit on First and 14th Amendment grounds for not being allowed to fly a Confederate flag on their 2020 Christmas parade float in Van Buren.

A federal lawsuit between the Sons of the Southern Cross and the Van Buren mayor over a Confederate flag in the 2020 Christmas parade continues with a recent response that denies a police officer was acting on the defendant's behalf.

James Bible of the Sons of the Southern Cross claims a Van Buren police officer approached him at the parade and informed the group they were not allowed to participate because of a Confederate flag on their float. The rules for the parade stated no flag other than the American flag was to be flown on floats. 

According to court documents in the case, Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst says the police officer was not operating as an agent of Van Buren during the parade, and he was not asked by Hurst to stop the Sons of the Southern Cross from taking part in the parade.

"They deny virtually every request for admission, but admit that the police officer asked Mr. Bible to remove the float," said Joey McCutchen, attorney for the Sons of the Southern Cross. "Logically, I don't think that is consistent with their answers."

At the beginning of 2021, the lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith by the Sons of the Southern Cross, Inc. against Hurst on First Amendment grounds. The Old Town Merchants Association was also included as a defendant because it sponsored the event. The Old Town Merchants failed to plead or defend and a default judgment was ruled in the case. 

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In a response to the Sons of the Southern Cross requests for admission, Hurst denies the city, or himself, had made the decision to prohibit the flag.

McCutchen has stated the Sons of the Southern Cross have participated in the Van Buren Christmas parade for the last 11 years and have displayed the Confederate flag on all of their floats. This was denied in the request for admission by Hurst. The next step, Mccutchen said, is that he is going to take depositions of the mayor and have him put under oath.