North Carolina stops issuing license plates with Confederate battle flag

North Carolina’s Division of Motor Vehicles says it will no longer issue or renew specialty license plates that bear the Confederate battle flag — or any variation of it. The change quietly went into effect on January 1, according to a statement. 

“The Division of Motor Vehicles has determined that license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag have the potential to offend those who view them,” NCDMV said in a statement to CBS News. “We have therefore concluded that display of the Confederate battle flag is inappropriate for display on specialty license plates, which remain property of the state.”

Plates with the flag have been issued in the past to members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization (SCV), which features the flag in its logo. While the North Carolina division of SCV will still be recognized as a civic organization entitled to a specialty plate, it is not entitled “to dictate the contents of the government speech on that specialty plate,” NCDMV said in its statement. 

The North Carolina division of SCV is pushing back. It said in a statement to CBS News that its members “deserve equal treatment under North Carolina law, by State officials and State agencies, that members of other civic organizations enjoy in our State.”

“For months our members have had difficulty receiving their SCV Special License Plates. We believe that these difficulties were a direct result of discrimination against our organization and our members,” the statement, signed by SCV Commander R. Kevin Stone, said. 

SCV said that after numerous attempts to get the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to comply, their specialty license plates were finally shipped out in late December – only for NCDOT to ban the sale of SCV license plates. 

“The SCV has no desire to change the official emblem of our organization, to meet the overreaching and hysterical demands of the NC-DOT, nor any group, or person that is not an SCV member,” the statement said. 

NCDMV said it would consider a new design from SVC. “Efforts were made, and will continue to be made, to work with the SCV to develop artwork for these specialty plates that does not contain the Confederate battle flag,” its statement reads. “Since these efforts have proven unsuccessful so far, the DMV determined the agency would no longer issue or renew these specialty plates.”

If an agreement on a new plate design is made between NCDMV and SCV, the agency will resume issuing the specialty plates. “Until such agreement can be reached, DMV will either issue SCV members standard plates and refund any specialty-plate fees paid or provide them with different specialty plates,” the statement reads. 

There are 2,527 active license plates in North Carolina with SCV’s Confederate flag emblem on them, NCDMV spokesman Steve Abbott said on Tuesday, according to local publication StarNews.

In the wake of protests against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd last May, dozens of Confederate symbols were removed from state capitals, government buildings, schools and other public spaces in the United States. The movement resulted in Mississippi changing its state flag which featured the confederate battle cross. The new flag features a magnolia surrounded by 21 stars signifying the states that joined the union before Mississippi, along with the words “In God we trust.”

Hundreds of other Confederate symbols, however, have remained on public land across the country. 

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