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Former Traverse City Officer Seen Displaying Confederate Flag Issues Statement

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A former Traverse City police officer who was seen displaying a Confederate flag at a "love trumps hate rally" has issued a statement.

Michael Peters resigned earlier this month from the department after an investigation into his off-duty actions.

Pictures show him at the Open Space with his truck displaying a Confederate flag and drinking a beer.

Wednesday, Peters sent a letter to 9&10 News addressing his actions.

In it, he explains he wanted to show a differing political view to others who he says "think they own the patent of free speech rights".

You can read his entire statement below.

“I feel obligated to clear the air on a misunderstanding which took place at the Open Space during a rally on 11/11/16. It seems that a large group of individuals who were present, expressing their 1st amendment right, took extreme exception to me exercising mine.

It is my opinion that if there is one major deficiency that many on the left side of the political spectrum possess, it is their instinct to react primarily on emotion as opposed to fact. Is the confederate battle flag an undisputed symbol of hate and/or racism in this county? The factual answer is no. Is this a controversial item which is capable of evoking emotion in certain individuals? Unarguably, yes.

I can’t speak for everyone on my side, but I can confidently make a statement that represents the waves of individuals across this country who share my opinion. Many of these individuals display the flag not out of racial divisiveness, but to pay homage to southern pride. And those who fly it outside the South have adopted it as the symbol of everything that is the American country boy. Why is this flag a common sight at events such as rodeos, car races, and county fairs both in the north and the south? It has nothing to do with racism, and everything to do with embracing and celebrating the simple lifestyle that is the country boy/girl.

I spent my formative years in the company of young men who were farmers and bull riders, drove trucks and wore cowboy hats, chewed tobacco and drank beer out of a can. Not one had a racist bone in his body, yet most displayed the rebel flag in one form or another, through belt buckles, shirts, or the flag itself. None of us construed this as racist, and none of us could fathom in this day and age how anyone could interpret it as such. Much like everything else in history, this symbol has evolved, and has evolved into something far removed from its civil war roots. I find it frustrating that the self proclaimed "progressives" in this country, who seem to want to change everything else about this nation’s history, stubbornly cling to this symbol as being racist in nature, and refuse to acknowledge the positive transformation that it had made over the years.

But the big question that most in this community would like answered from that day is one of intent. My appearance at the rally that day was not one of racial bias. If it had been, I wouldn’t have sought out an event that was made up of 99% white liberals. My intent was simple, because if there’s one other thing that this flag represents, besides the proud hayseed lifestyle, it is the antithesis of political correctness. There is a rapidly growing segment of the population in this country who seem to be offended by anyone who dares present anything politically incorrect to them, and normal people are growing weary of it. I simply showed up that evening to present a differing political view to a group of people who seem to think that they own the patent on free speech rights.

The decision to resign was my own, and based upon the fact that after 20 years of being in this profession, it was time for a change. This decision was also made easy due to the fact that the fight for my job was clearly going to be an uphill battle. It seemed that the many key players in the court of public opinion, including the chief of police who was on record as stating that the "flag stands for hate", had already come to their own conclusions that my intentions were nefarious.

It should be noted that there was a gentleman in attendance that day who did seem particularly outraged and has since become a pivotal figure relating to this incident. I have attempted to reach out to this individual in the hopes of sitting down and educating each other on our vastly different experiences involving this issue. With any luck, a civil discussion can be engaged in, where we may be able to both leave the table with a little better understanding of the other’s viewpoint.

So in closing, the next time you witness a truck full of young men in cowboy gear, displaying the confederate battle flag, I implore you to reconsider their motive for doing so. They’re likely not the racist rednecks that you’ve been told about by your uninformed friends.”