Whenever news breaks that contains even the slightest hint of racism, Al Sharpton – host of MSNBC's PoliticsNation weekday program as well as a civil rights activist -- jumps at the chance to obtain free publicity and makes outrageous demands.
That's going to be the case on Saturday, when Sharpton will hold a vigil on the main street running through Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, which is named "General Lee Avenue” after the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War.
According to an article by Hunter Walker on the BusinessInsider.com website, minister Kirsten John Foy -- northeast regional director of Sharpton's National Action Network (NAN) -- held a press conference in front of the base on Thursday.
Foy said it is "unacceptable" that the main street running through the base is named after the Confederate general, especially since the installation is often referred to as the "face of the United States Army in New York."
He stated that the name offends him “as a New Yorker, as an American, and as a person of good conscience."
Walker wrote: “The street is about a half-mile long. ... Lee served at Fort Hamilton in the 19th century before he left the U.S. Army. He went on to lead the Confederate troops” during the internal conflict in the 1860s.
“The June 17 shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine people dead has reignited a nationwide debate over Confederate symbols on public lands,” the reporter noted.
Dylann Roof, the alleged shooter, has been linked to a website that features a racist manifesto and photos of him posing with Confederate imagery.
In addition to calling for General Lee Avenue to be renamed, Foy said the NAN is pushing for the military to change the names of the 10 bases that honor Confederate figures. "Military bases are on federally owned land that is outside of local jurisdiction.”
We will be presenting an official letter to the commander of this base and then sending it up the chain, asking that they remove all the remnants of the Confederacy.
Taxpayer dollars are supporting a U.S. military that honors the Confederacy.
“Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who represents a congressional district adjacent to the base, has also called for General Lee Avenue to be renamed,” Walker noted. “However, Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) has not responded to requests for comment from Business Insider about the issue.”
Foy said Donovan's silence was "deafening." Before being elected to Congress earlier this year., he was the district attorney in Staten Island and was widely criticized for declining to indict the police officers who were involved in the choke-hold death of Eric Garner, which led to protests across the country.
The NAN spokesman added that Donovan's lack of response is “not surprising. "This is the same individual who didn't think Eric Garner deserved justice."
"We're not equating this painting with the Confederate flag that's represented in some of the Southern states in their flags and on their public lands," Foy explained. "But we are saying that this rises to the occasion of a robust public debate. Does this flag belong in our state capitol here in the state of New York?"
“The mural, which depicts wars New York has been involved in, includes a flag with the Confederate stars and bars that is encircled by a wreath.” Foy said “the presence of the wreath means the Confederate flag is being 'memorialized' on the mural.
After Foy's remarks, Walker stated, a reporter “asked whether the fight over Confederate symbols and names might be distracting from more pressing civil rights issues."
"We can walk and chew gum at the same time," Foy said. “We can fight injustices on all fronts. We have to fight this battle from top to bottom, legislatively and symbolically."
“The Army has released statements indicating it has no intention of changing any base names,” Walker stated. A reporter for Business Insider asked Foy “whether NAN would push president Barack Obama or any of the 2016 candidates to take action to rename the bases.”
"We've got to look for the future. The president has done a yeoman's job in moving the U.S. military into the 21st century," Foy said. “He can't do it all in eight years.”
Nevertheless, “There is another president on the way and, whoever the president is, they've got to make it known to us what their position is on the state of the Confederacy in 2015."
It's odd that an organization claiming to “look for the future” is using many of its resources to eliminate the symbol of something that was used in an unsuccessful war 150 years ago.