BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Sons of Confederate Veterans members in Louisiana claim a city's mayor trampled on their rights by barring them from displaying Confederate battle flags while marching in a Christmas parade last year.
The group's Louisiana division sued the city of Natchitoches and Mayor Lee Posey on Thursday, asking a federal court to declare the mayor's policy unconstitutional.
Thomas Taylor, the division's former commander, said in a telephone interview Friday that its flag-carrying members marched and rode floats in the parade for nearly two decades without causing any disruptions.
"We have never had a problem before," said Taylor, a Sterlington resident who said the Louisiana division has about 1,250 members. "The crowd loves us, but this politically correct stuff raised its ugly head."
The lawsuit cites a Nov. 2, 2015, letter from Posey to the parade's organizers in which the mayor said allowing the Confederate flag to be displayed by marchers could cause "substantial disruption or interference with the parade" and could be seen as an "endorsement of a symbol that is viewed as racially inflammatory."
Posey didn't immediately return a call for comment Friday. At a news conference last year, the mayor said he knew his decision would be controversial but considered it "the right thing to do."
"As mayor, I am accountable to all citizens who live in our city, and for many the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, bigotry, violence and division," Posey said last December, according to The Town Talk newspaper.
Many communities have distanced themselves from Confederate symbols since the June 2015 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof, the man accused in that case, had posed with the Confederate battle flag for online photos.
"These ignorant people want to revise history and erase history because one nut did something crazy," Taylor said.
The Town Talk reported last year that Posey said he tried to reach a compromise that would allow Sons of Confederate Veterans members to march in the parade with other types of Confederate flags, but the group refused.
"To be clear, the city of Natchitoches has not banned the Confederate flag from public display," Posey said, according to the newspaper. "The only thing we have banned is the flag being marched in the Christmas Festival parade."