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New York bans confederate flag, Nazi swastikas from being sold or displayed on state grounds

The bill, signed into law by Governor Cuomo, is likely to be tested in court for potential violation of free speech.

New York bans confederate flag, Nazi swastikas from being sold or displayed on state grounds
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 10: A Confederate flag supporter arrives at the South Carolina Statehouse on July 10, 2017 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

There's no place for Nazis and secessionists in America reminded New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he signed a bill banning the sale or display of Confederate flags, swastikas, and other “symbols of hate” on state property in New York City. “This country faces a pervasive, growing attitude of intolerance and hate—what I have referred to in the body politic as an American cancer,” said Cuomo in his bill-signing memo, on Tuesday, reported NBC News. “By limiting the display and sale of the Confederate flag, Nazi swastika and other symbols of hatred from being displayed or sold on state property, including the state fairgrounds, this bill will help safeguard New Yorkers from the fear-instilling effects of these abhorrent symbols,” he added. The bill exempts cases where such symbols are used for educational or historical purposes such as in books and museum services.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 08: New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on September 08, 2020 in New York City. Cuomo, though easing restrictions on casinos and malls throughout the state, has declined to do so for indoor dining in restaurants in New York City despite pressure from business owners, citing struggles by the city to enforce the state's previous orders. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


The bill could be challenged under the charge of violation of free speech under the US Constitution. The confederate flag is still widely used by members of the Ku Klux Klan groups and secessionists and is widely regarded as racist. Attorney Floyd Abrams, who has argued cases with regards to First Amendment cases in Supreme Court, said the bill could be overturned. “The First Amendment generally protects the expression of even hateful speech, and a statute banning the sale of materials expressing those views on state-owned land is highly likely to be held unconstitutional,” said Abrams.


Cuomo said he was aware of the potential hurdles awaiting the bill and said they might have to make some “technical changes” to ensure free speech protections aren’t violated. The New York governor said he had agreed to discuss the matter with the Legislature to make the changes. The Confederate emblem has been a divisible symbol with many arguing it represents racism and hate. White supremacist groups are often seen holding confederate flags and the emblem has been designated as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. The Confederacy was a government of 11 Southern states that seceded from the Union in 1860–61 for refusing to comply with the government's call to end slavery. The Confederacy committed treason to form a separate government within the Union. The Law of Treason notes that "States have no power to form a Confederacy within the Union composed of any of its States," according to The New York Times. The Confederate government lasted merely five years but the states' refusal to end slavery became synonymous with White Supremacy for many and explains why it still holds much appeal among the Ku Klux Klan.


"The horrific rash of anti-Semitic, anti-African American, anti-Hispanic and anti-LGBTQ behavior spreading across the United States is repugnant to our values as New Yorkers and Americans, and a new generation now bears witness to a rising tide of discrimination, hatred, and violence that threatens generations of progress," wrote Cuomo, reported CNN.



Earlier this year, Mississippi voted to remove the confederate battle emblem on its state flag and had it replaced with a magnolia design. The US Navy and the Marines also banned displays of the confederate flag. NASCAR announced in June that the flag would be banned at all races after Bubba Wallace — the only full-time Black driver on the cup circuit — called for racetracks to ban them. “The presence of the confederate flag at Nascar events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” said Nascar, reported The Guardian. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all Nascar events and properties.”

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