Confederate flag flies at community gardens on state-owned land in Concord 

  • A Confederate flag is seen amid plots at the community gardens off Birch Street in Concord. Hannah Sampadian / Monitor staff

  • A Confederate flag is posted at one of the Birch Street garden community plots, shown here on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • A Confederate flag is posted at one of the Birch Street garden community plots, shown here on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • A Confederate flag is posted at one of the Birch Street garden community plots, shown here on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Plots at the Birch Street community gardens in Concord display peace and love signs near where a Confederate flag has been posted. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • A plot at the Birch Street community garden in Concord displays a peace and love sign near the site of a Confederate flag. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • Plots at the Birch Street community gardens in Concord display peace and love signs near where a Confederate flag has been posted. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A Confederate flag flies next to an American flag at the community gardens off of Birch Street in Concord on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/24/2019 1:59:23 PM

The red, white and blue colors of the Confederate flag are disrupting the verdant greens and browns of the community gardens off Birch Street.

Gardeners tending their land this week weren’t sure who the flag belonged to. But they didn’t seem happy about its presence.

“Is there any law against it?” said Lorna Austin of Pembroke, rolling a bag of her freshly-picked asparagus between her hands. “Probably not. Is it in poor taste? Absolutely.”

Austin has been working the same plot for 13 years. She figured the flag had been up for about a month. The Monitor learned of the flag after a reader spotted it earlier this week.

Two plots near the Confederate flag has been stylized with “peace” and “love” symbols in the soil.

The rebel flag was flown by Confederate troops during the Civil War. It is simultaneously viewed as a modern symbol of hate and racism, and a historical marker to the Civil War often flown to show Southern pride.

The small flag in Concord is technically flying on state land, as the gardens are owned and operated by the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands. Growers are required to sign a form saying they will adhere to rules including: they will not hold the state responsible for any injuries or theft of property; use any herbicide; grow woody plants or sell any of the produce harvested from their plot. What kind of personal property can be brought onto the plot is not covered.

Many plots show signs of immediate use with crops and the dirt, while others, including where the flag is flying, appear to be deserted or neglected. The flag is tied to a raised birdhouse guarded by a scarecrow with a wrinkled face. Stalks of ravaged corn poke up around dried grass.

Gardeners – who rent a plot for $20 to $40 and often come back to the same spot for years – say the gardens are a low-key, communal place.

People often leave their tools at the garden, Austin said, and while there are occasional instances of theft, people’s stuff is usually left alone. It’s common to see chairs or tables set up at the plots.

Growers aren’t given direction on what kind of personal items they can display at their plots, said Brad Cilley, of Concord.

He said he “doesn’t agree” with what the flag stands for, but said he would be more bothered if the flag was flying down at the State House.

“It’s on state property but it’s not the state that’s doing it,” he said.

“I’m just curious as to why anyone who lives in New England would want to fly the Confederate flag up here,” he said. “Most of us have relatives who died in the Civil War.”

The national debate over the Confederate flag reemerged in 2015 after the racially-motivated murder of nine churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. The shooter, Dylann Roof, displayed the flag on his license plate. State lawmakers later removed the flag from the grounds of the state capitol, where it had been flown for decades.

Across the South, communities continue to debate the display of the flag and considered removing statues of Confederate generals, especially after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 erupted into violence.

Close to home, in 2017, Epsom residents were divided about whether keeping the Confederate flag in an elementary school mural was appropriate. The school board ultimately voted to keep it.

New Jersey is the most recent place to make news around the flag after Gov. Phil Murphy removed the Mississippi flag – which still includes the distinctive X with stars – from a park.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)


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