The Calgary police hate unit is investigating the hoisting of a Confederate battle flag over military graves at Union Cemetery Tuesday, said a city councillor.
People strolling through the cemetery and nearby Reader Rock Gardens took photos of the stars and bars flag symbolic of the U.S. Civil War Confederacy’s struggle to maintain slavery and posted them on social media.
Early Tuesday evening, Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said one of his social media accounts received a photo of the flag fluttering over the section of the cemetery that contains the graves First and Second World War servicemen and he took swift action to have it removed.
“I reached the director of bylaw services and was told it was indeed flying and I’ve been told the police hate crimes unit is looking into it,” said an angry Carra.
“It’s totally unacceptable to fly that flag over the graves of soldiers who fought for the freedoms we enjoy.”
On one Facebook page where a photo of the flag in the cemetery was posted, most on the thread condemned its presence, but some defended it as a “piece of history” and denounced those upset by it as supporters of so-called “cancel culture.”
Other Calgarians saw the photo on social media and went to the cemetery to remove the flag, with one man reportedly doing so early Tuesday evening and handing it to police.
Carra said it’s unfortunate someone was so easily able to hoist the flag over those tombstones, particularly of fallen soldiers who were preparing to fight white supremacist Nazis, who unleashed the Holocaust on Jews and other minorities.
“Tightening up that flag pole protocol is a definite goal but at the same time, it’s a lesser concern than that there are members of our community for reasons of hate and racism are willing to do that,” he said.
“There’s only one reason to hoist that flag and it’s to send a message of hate to one-third of our community (that’s racialized).”
Last month, some who attended anti-COVID-19 lockdown rallies in Calgary and Edmonton carried tiki torches, which are also widely considered symbolic of white supremacist intimidation.
Carra said this context makes the flag incident especially troublesome.
“There are too many people in our community who lustily partake in that wedge-driving and we’re going to make sure we do everything in our power to find out who did this,” he said.
It’s not certain how long the flag was flying over the cemetery, added Carra.
“I certainly hope it wasn’t for very long,” he said.