AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced he will not participate in this year's Veterans Day Parade, held Saturday on Congress Avenue, because some groups signed up to march will be carrying the Confederate flag.
"Veterans Day should only be about honoring United States Military Veterans," Adler said in a statement Thursday morning. "Symbols of racism, Civil War secession, and white supremacy should not be forgotten or erased, but they need to be remembered and studied in museums and classrooms not cheered and applauded in parades."
Adler went on to say the parade, which is coordinated by volunteer organizers, will not allow the Confederate battle flag this year, which is seen as a symbol of racism. The mayor said the parade committee will still allow the carrying of the official Confederate flag, however. The first official flag of the Confederacy has two horizontal red stripes and one white horizontal strip along with seven stars in a blue box.
"I appreciate that step in the right direction, but for me it does not go far enough," Adler wrote.
In lieu of marching in the parade, Adler plans to volunteer at the Central Texas Food Bank Saturday. He says he will honor veterans there because the nonprofit serves a large number of local veterans. He says he'll also write thank you notes to men and women who have served, to be delivered by the local VA.
"This was a hard choice, because I would very much like to be able to be part of the parade, because I want to honor veterans," Adler said, adding, "I'm really happy and excited that there are other ways for me to honor the veterans."
Adler stressed his decision was made due to personal conviction and doesn't represent a city stance. However, some veterans say it feels like a blow, coming from a city official.
"This is his opportunity to be the better guy," said Army veteran Michael Cargill, who served for more than a decade. "He is the mayor of the city of Austin, a great city, and this is his chance to say, 'you know what, I'm going to put my differences aside, and I'm going to go there. I'm going to let them know that I dislike what they're doing, but I'm still going to stand up for the veterans.'"
The Veterans Day Parade Committee released a statement about the mayor's planned absence, saying in part:
"The Committee understands that some in our community consider the Confederate battle flag as a negative symbol and therefore voted unanimously to ban the flag from the parade. The Committee's focus is to honor our veterans by including as many veterans as possible and create a safe environment for the parade."
The statement went on to say: "The Committee appreciates the city of Austin's support and contributions to the Austin Veterans Day Parade and acknowledges that without the city's support, this parade couldn't happen."
The sheriff of Williamson County took to social media to blast Adler on his decision to not attend the parade. Sheriff Robert Chody started his post by saying "Shame on you, @MayorAdler!" Chody says he's "offended" that Adler would allow a "small group dictacte the true meaning of the intent of the parade." Chody ends his message by asking the mayor to reconsider.
The city still plans to waive street closure fees for the parade's organizers, as it has in years past. City agencies such as the Austin police and fire departments will also still participate in the parade.
The parade will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and a ceremony will follow the parade at 11 a.m.
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