Huge Confederate Flag to Fly Over Tampa

The i's are dotted, t's are crossed and a 139-foot flagpole is ready to fly the Stars and Bars over one of the busiest highway interchanges in Florida.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans in Tampa plan soon to raise what they claim is the world's largest Confederate flag on a private triangle of land tucked near where Interstates 75 and 4 meet. The flag measures 50 feet by 30 feet.

John Adams, commander of the organization's Florida division, has spearheaded the flag project, which includes plans for an accompanying memorial park. And he wants to make sure that the only objections the group faces are based on opinion, not the law.

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"You're going to hear some complaints about it for sure," Adams said. "But it's a free country as far as I know."

To some, particularly across many Southern states, the rebel flag represents a rich heritage that includes fighting and dying for the Confederate cause during the Civil War. To others, the flag represents dark memories attached to slavery and racial inequality.

One of those people is Curtis Stokes, president of the NAACP in Hillsborough County, who hopes that a groundswell of opposition to raising the flag might convince the Sons of Confederate Veterans to reconsider.

That's an unlikely scenario, according to Adams. Nearly a decade ago, the 220 members in the state's Sons of Confederate Veterans group launched a project called "Flags Across Florida" in response to a decision by state officials to remove the Confederate flag from a place of prominence near the state capitol in Tallahassee.

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"Our members decided the trend is going to be that there's a major outlash against these being flown on public property, all we need to do is buy our own property and put them up there," Adams said.

The flag will be the group's third in the state, but will be not only the largest, but will also fly square in the middle of one of the most highly-trafficked intersections in the state. An estimated 124,000 cars pass by the highway ever day. The two Interstates link the Tampa Bay area to Orlando to the northeast and Miami to the south.

The pole, which will be anchored by a 100,000-pound concrete base, is the tallest the Federal Aviation Administration would allow in that spot. The 1,500-square-foot flag was ordered from a Chinese company after an American flagmaker begged off, citing union objections to making the flag. It will be illuminated by spotlights at night.

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Adams said the project, which will cost an estimated $80,000, has been going through approvals with the Hillsborough County government for more than two years. The park that accompanies the flag will feature landscaping and parking as well as plaques detailing the state's historical contributions to the Confederacy. One will even pay tribute to the small group of black soldiers who fought on the Confederacy's behalf, Adams said.

Throughout the permitting process, Adams admits he never revealed to officials that it was the Confederate flag he intended to fly atop the pole. He had no reason to, he said. "The flag is political speech so it's not like they can do anything about it," he said. "You cannot simply discriminate because the message is one you don't like."

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