A Minnesota-based group has been given the go-ahead to hold a rally in support of the controversial Confederate battle flag on the Minnesota Capitol mall next month.
The group calling itself "Minnesota 10,000 for Southern Heritage" plans to hold the rally on the morning of Sept. 5.
"[W]e feel this flag should be allowed to fly and seen as an image of heritage," according to the group's application. "We do not condone violence, hate, bigotry, racism, etc. for those choosing to use our flag to promote their delinquencies because of its popularity."
The Confederate battle flag has been widely condemned since a gunman killed nine people in an attack on a African-American church in Charleston, S.C., in June. The flag was removed from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol last month.
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BC Johnson, who applied for the rally's permit on the group's behalf and said he's African-American, blames the Obama administration for the backlash against the flag.
"The flag has taken a beating in modern times," Johnson said. "I feel it's been mainly brought on by the current administration, who are trying to take the focus off of what they're not doing to protect African-Americans, and to get our focus on something else that's totally irrelevant to what's going on."
Johnson, who is originally from Columbia, S.C., supports the flag because he said it represents states' rights.
"The Confederate battle flag represents a time when people stood up against tyrannical and hypocritical government, and said we're just not going to let you take us for granted anymore," Johnson said. "If we don't have any rights under the country you want us to be in, then maybe we should go form our own country."
Johnson said any racists who show up to support the rally will be dismissed. He said he understands that some people will oppose his rally, but that he hopes they might have a respectful discussion during the rally.
Any concerns about a rally or counter-rally are handled by Capitol security, which is a branch of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
In its rally application, the group estimates that 25 people will attend the rally at the State Capitol, which is home to a number of historical artifacts documenting and memorializing the 24,000 Minnesotans who participated in the Civil War.
The Department of Administration approved the application on Wednesday. A spokesperson said the agency does not deny permits for rallies due to the political content of an event, but that the rules for denying a permit to a rally are usually based on concerns about public safety.
From Southern Poverty Law Center data, the Washington Post mapped 173 rallies supporting the Confederate flag across the U.S. since the June 17 shooting at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Sept. 5 event at the state Capitol would be the first official rally in Minnesota, according to The Washington Post.