Ocala man takes action July 4th against confederate flag
Joe Courter
July 2000

Rex Weng, a seventy-nine-year-old World War II Veteran, picked a different sort of way to mark Independence Day this year. A resident of Ocala, Weng had for weeks been attempting to get the Marion County Commission to vote to remove the confederate flag from a flagpole on county property. Time and again, the commission dismissed Weng's and others' complaints, allowing the flag to fly without the commission taking a formal stand, although two members, Commission Chair Hennings and Commissioner Harris, said they supported the flag display staying up.

When July 4th morning came, Rex Weng decided "this is it." His anti-racist sentiment was galvanized 58 years earlier in 1942, when he and other draftees to World War II were taken by train out from Brooklyn to a military base (Camp Upton) on Long Island for induction. There the hundred or so black and white men stood in the field. Weng said, "After some sergeant gave some great big speech about fighting against Hitler and his Master race theory, and how we were going to defeat [him], that he was out to conquer the world you know; he gave us a real pep talk. And after the talk was over he said, 'All colored boys step off to the right.' I was segregated from that time on in all-black units. At that time the US Army was racially segregated, and I've been in a rage at that. . .by edict of the United States Government."

Weng related how his whole time in the military, in Europe and in the American South, was spent in segregated conditions. He told how the base in Camp Shelby Mississippi had black and white post exchanges, segregated theaters on "Uncle Sam's Army Post," a theater divided by a line down the middle.

Weng went on to say how during his time in the service in Europe, the American racism went abroad with the Army. He recounted how at socials and dances in England and France, white U.S. soldiers would attack and cause riots over black GIs dancing with European women.

Even after coming back, victorious from defeating Hitler, the "master race theorist," he still came back to segregation. "I still couldn't go into a restaurant in any of the southern states and sit next to white person and have a cup of coffee or whatever. It was against the law. I've been in a rage ever since, and that's what motivated my action here on July the 4th."

Racial strife also factored into his later life in Massachusetts when he was the Vice President of the Massachusetts Labor Council at the initiation of the bussing of black students into previously all-white' schools in Boston. As a union leader, and with the AFL-CIO parent union organization strongly supporting desegregation, he was subject to the opposition of white union members, who violently resisted integration, challenged his leadership and threatened other black union members.

So with all that history, on July 4, 2000, Rex Weng, armed with scissors and powerful anti-racist principles, walked up to the flagpole at the Marion County Governmental Center, took down the confederate flag, and cut up the flag. That evening at 9:30 p.m., Marion County sheriffs came to his home and based on images in a surveillance camera tape, arrested Rex Weng on two counts of criminal mischief and took him to jail. At 2:30 a.m., he was bonded out and his court appearance and arraignment is on Monday, July 17 at the Marion County Courthouse.

Rex Weng will conduct a First Hand History presentation at the Civic Media Center on Wednesday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m., and you are invited to attend. The Civic Media Center is at 1021 W. University Ave. (373-0010).

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