Ohio city shocked to see Confederate flag with ‘Welcome to Harrison’ sign

Someone put flag, welcome sign with mayor’s name on it, on private property along busy road in southwest Ohio town

HARRISON — Several residents in the Hamilton County town of Harrison said they are in disbelief after seeing a Confederate flag with a “Welcome to Harrison, Ohio” sign.

“I drive past here every single day and never, ever, ever seen anything like that,” said Wayne Johnson, who has lived in the city his entire life.

Johnson said the display posted on private property on Harrison Avenue — which also features Mayor Ryan Grubbs’ name on the welcome sign — is racist.

“What’s going on with Harrison? What’s Harrison really thinking? Are they trying to push people out of here?” Johnson said.

Grubbs said in an email, “This was brought to my attention Saturday afternoon after the family that owns the property posted the sign and put the flag up. This is not a city property or project.”

The mayor said citizens have the right to free speech and people choose to “speak” in different ways.

“While the property owner may be within his rights, I do have a team looking into the display,” Grubbs said. “We are looking to see if it is in violation of any of our zoning requirements, or if it is misrepresentation. It would be very easy for individuals to think that it is a city display.”

Harrison is a city of about 12,000 people just west of Cincinnati on the Ohio-Indiana line.

Trudy Gaba, a social justice curator at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, isn’t shocked to see a Confederate flag fly in Ohio.

“Flags are representative of ideologies of belief systems,” Gaba said.

Gaba said it does complicate Ohio’s history, considering Ohio was a free state.

“It begs one to question what are we glorifying, what are we celebrating here,” Gaba said. “The Confederate flag is emblematic of the desire to own people as property. You can’t separate that from today’s history.”

She said it’s important to look at history holistically, and not in isolation. Gaba said the Confederate flag is nothing to celebrate and is a painful reminder of slavery for Black and Brown people.

“When they see this flag, they don’t see a romanticized history. They see a very painful history and the dehumanizing one, and there’s nothing to celebrate and glorify there,” she said.

Flags like the one in Harrison, she said, are why places like the Freedom Center need to exist.

“The Freedom Center is committed to really unifying the plurality of our voices and perspectives, to look at history of the past, so that we can arrive at a different future — one in which we celebrate solidarity and unity, and we fight for equality,” said Gaba.

WCPO is attempting to track down the property owner.

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