East Tennessee stores debate keeping Confederate flag merchandise

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – Stores across East Tennessee with Confederate flag merchandise are debating whether to keep it or take it off the shelves. Some big retailers like Walmart, Sears and Amazon have decided to stop the selling the items after the South Carolina church shooting.

The Veterans Store in Pigeon Forge has no plans to wipe the Confederate flag off their shelves anytime soon. Donna Smith, the store’s manager, says they sell about five to ten flags a day along with pins, patches and stickers with the rebel flag on them.

Previous story: Wal-Mart removing Confederate flag items from stores, online

“For me, it’s a heritage thing. I’m born and raised and that means it’s from the South from my heart. It doesn’t mean anything else,” said Smith.

The Veterans Store in Pigeon Forge has no plans to wipe the Confederate flag off their shelves anytime soon
The Veterans Store in Pigeon Forge has no plans to wipe the Confederate flag off their shelves anytime soon

What some call heritage has become controversial after Dylann Roof, 21, shot and killed nine people at a traditionally black church in Charleston. Pictures show him posing with the Confederate flag. It’s led major retailers to stop selling the “Southern pride” symbol, but some smaller stores aren’t on board.

Related coverage: Charleston Shooting

The American flag and the Confederate flag fly side by side outside the Veterans store. Store employees said the flag is just part of the country’s history, but others disagreed.

Previous story: East Tennesseans disagree over Confederate flag’s meaning

“I believe it’s a symbol of hate. People who want to support that can. People who don’t, don’t have to,” said Leticia Fox who was visiting Pigeon Forge.

Store employees said the flag is just part of the country’s history, but others disagreed.
Store employees said the flag is just part of the country’s history, but others disagreed.

When asked if they had any trouble selling the flag after the South Carolina shooting, the manager said it hasn’t been an issue. She said there’s a possibility there could be a boost in sales if others cut Confederate merchandise out of their inventory.

WATE 6 On Your Side checked with other stores selling the confederate flag merchandise in the area. One store in Maryville, Foothills Flags and Poles, said they’ll be taking it off their shelves.

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