FAIRVIEW, Okla. — A rural community in Northwest Oklahoma is embroiled in a struggle over the public display of Nazi and Confederate symbols.
The Confederate Knotz, a band that displays Nazi and Confederate flags in its online posts, was under consideration to play the community's Independence Day celebration on July 3. Fairview, Oklahoma, City Manager Jerry Eubanks said he immediately removed the band from consideration when images of them playing in front of a Nazi flag were brought to him last week.
But, Ryan Wahl, a candidate in the local county commissioner race, objected online the band was cut "due to this politically correct society we live in now."
He subsequently planned a private "Celebrating Freedom" event for July 3, featuring the band. Social media posts for the event advertise T-shirts for sale stating "Confederate Knotz Lives Matter."
Wahl told the Enid (Oklahoma) News & Eagle he was aware of the Nazi flag, but said the band members "are good friends of mine," and they don't fly the Nazi flag at concerts. He said he had no problem with the band’s Confederate symbology that does appear at concerts.
In more than 100 social comments, local supporters lauded Wahl for his “great character” for sticking up for the band. Numerous posts thanked him for opposing “political correctness” and one said simply “Trump 2020 and Confederate Knotz.”
Many criticized the city council for barring The Confederate Knotz, describing them as “political puppets,” “cowardly” and succumbing to pressure from “race-baiting.” One denounced Black Lives Matter as a “hate group.”
The Confederate Knotz have a history of playing public events in Northwest Oklahoma, including at least one Independence Day celebration, and numerous appearances at area bars and a local historical society.
Former local chamber of commerce director Meg Schoneberg said she wished she'd dug deeper into the band's background before they were scheduled for a 2018 chamber event.
“I didn’t fight hard enough and I didn’t do enough research," Schoneberg said. "I care about making Fairview inclusive, and I fell down on that job.”
Justin Patterson, who first brought the Nazi symbology to the city's attention, also said more needs to be done to stand up to hate. Patterson said most people in the community of 2,500 are afraid to speak out because of fears they’ll be ostracized. But, there are more tangible causes for fear.
After helping organize a youth Black Lives Matter event, then raising the issue of the Nazi flag, Patterson has received multiple social media posts from angry townspeople stating they "know where you live." One included repeated use of racial slurs to refer to his children, who are biracial.
Now, Patterson is reminding his children to stay away from windows in their home, and to sleep with their beds against a brick wall, out of fear someone will retaliate.
“Why do I have to tell my kids that?” Patterson said. “I shouldn’t have to tell my kids things like that.”
The Confederate Knotz band declined to comment.