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More Tennesseans driving around with Confederate flag on license plates

(FOX 17 News)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - A controversial symbol is becoming more common on Tennessee roads.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue says demand for license plates with a confederate flag on them is growing.

The plates support a national organization called the “Sons of Confederate Veterans,” comprised of descendants of Civil War soldiers who fought to defend the South.

As of early July, there were 3,300 of them active in the state of Tennessee, the highest ever, and a nearly 80 percent increase from the same time in 2014.

“People are just tired of having their history taken from us,” says James Patterson, Commander for the Tennessee Division of the SCV.

He says a national push to remove Confederate monuments and statues, like in Memphis parks in December, has more people concerned their heritage is being threatened.

“These people went through a lot of hardships, and the people of the South went through a lot of hardships too. Most of the towns were destroyed and then after the war, they had to rebuild, so there's a lot of history that goes outside just the flag.”

SCV plates are just one of several specialty plates anyone in the state of Tennessee can buy for an annual fee of $61.50, with $35 of that going back to the organization.

For the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Patterson says the money goes to preserving battlefields, putting up historical markers, and to Confederate artifacts at the Tennessee State Museum.

“I think to each their own, whether I agree or disagree with it, it's not my vehicle, so I think people should be able to do what they want to do whether it makes people happy or unhappy,” says Billie Hardison, of Nashville.

“It’s not offensive to me because I try to mind my business,” adds Larry Clark, also of Nashville. “Most people, that's how they were raised, it's what they know, but I just stay to myself.”

While the Tennessee Department of Revenue acknowledges this increase, it says with 5.6 million registered license plates, 3,300 is a very small number overall.

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