Around Pennsylvania, several local courts have seen the same display in recent weeks: a group of white people with a double-sided flag, with a Nazi swastika on one side and a Confederate battle flag symbol on the other, tossing them in a bucket and then setting them ablaze.
No, they’re not pagans, and this is not a seance: it’s how local activist Gene Stilp says he is fighting racism around Pennsylvania.
“To combine the Nazi and Confederate flag is to make a point,” Stilp said in a Facebook live video of one such burning outside the Luzerne County Courthouse, “which is that the Nazi and Confederate flag had basically the same values. Those values include hate, racism, bigotry, white supremacy, slavery and even death.”
Stilp, known as an ethics activist in Harrisburg, last week went to Luzerne County and Gettysburg with the flag-burning show. On Tuesday, he plans to repeat the flag-burning ritual in Northumberland County and Union County, before heading York County Wednesday more of the same.
“Over the years we have noticed in many counties of Pennsylvania the flying of the Confederate flag,” Stilp said. “They say ‘heritage not hate.’ The heritage of the flag is hate, this is a white supremacist flag. … After the death of Heather Heyer [killed in Charlottesville] I said, ‘Why not join the Nazi flag and the Confederate flag into one flag to show that those values are the same?'”
Through these displays, based on how people in the community react, Stilp says, he can tell the level of “racism and bigotry” in a county. While burning the flags in Gettysburg, men carrying Trump flags and wearing Confederate flag-emblazoned jackets stood near the burning, although no altercations occurred.
Stilp stressed that “anybody can fly any type of flag they want” due to the First Amendment, but said he hopes to demonstrate in an educational way “that the flag should be taken down.”
How people react to the flag-burning display tells him if there is racism in the county or not, Stilp says in his videos. And he’s done the same stunt at NASCAR games in Alabama, a sport he targeted, he said, “Because our racist president Donald Trump said NASCAR fans would not take a knee in regard to the NFL players’ protest.”
Stilp’s anti-racism tour has taken him to places like Gettysburg, where last week he posted another video pointing out Confederate-flag-themed regalia and accessories for sale in a souvenir shop.
“That’s what sad, this flag that represents hate, racism and bigotry, is used for commercial gain,” Stilp said, pointing out hats with Confederate flag symbol. “This shouldn’t be any place in this town.”
He didn’t confirm if he plans to stop in Philadelphia with the flag-burning tour.