While a special student assembly about changing the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School was going on in the auditorium Wednesday morning, demonstrators with confederate flags were gathered on the sidewalk outside.
The Duval County school is named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general, a slave owner and a slave trader with ties to the early Ku Klux Klan.
57-year-old Darrell Walker flies a large confederate flag from the back of his black Harley Davidson motorcycle. He graduated from Forrest in 1974 and he wants the name left alone.
“For me it’s about the flag. I love this place. You know, there’s a lot of people’s hearts with this school. It ain’t just a rag tag bunch of folks. I mean, that’s the bottom line. It ain’t about hate, it’s about heritage," he said.
Demonstrating alongside Walker Wednesday morning was 65-year-old H.K. Edgerton.
Edgerton appeared to be wearing a confederate soldier’s uniform; a large confederate flag on his left shoulder.
He says he’s from Asheville, North Carolina where once served as the head of the local NAACP.
According to Edgerton, General Forrest wasn’t the monster people make him out to be.
“If I don’t come here and these babies don’t see me, they gonna believe nobody black want to stand up for Nathan Bedford Forrest," he said.
"I can tell you there are a lot of folks across the country who are very glad that somebody who looks like me will stand up for his homeland and stand up for someone named Nathan Bedford Forrest in the southland of America.”
The Duval County school board will hold a special meeting next Monday night to vote on whether to keep the name.
The campaign to change the school’s name kicked into high gear this summer when an online petition drive got more than 160,000 signatures.
You can follow Cyd Hoskinson on Twitter @cydwjctnews.