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The Gettysburg Police Department patch. (Facebook photo)

Officials in a small South Dakota town are refusing to remove the Confederate flag from its police uniforms, though denunciations of the emblem have gained traction following the alleged murder of nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina by a self-proclaimed White supremacist.

According to the Grand Folk Herald, the local police department in Gettysburg has a uniform that features a patch with the Confederate and American flags crossed over a Civil War-era cannon. The insignia was designed in 2009 and represents the town’s history, the Herald reports.

Bill Wuttke, mayor of the small town of almost 1,200—only three of whom are Black, according to Census figures—is a defender of the flag patch and says it doesn’t represent racism.

“If it had anything to do with racism we’d take it down and change it,” Wuttke told The Huffington Post. “It has nothing to do with racism.”

Deputy City Finance Officer Corey Wannamaker, who works at a local museum in the town, agrees with the mayor and says the logo is a tribute to the history of the town. According to Wannamaker, Gettysburg was founded in 1883 by nearly 200 Civil War veterans from both the North and the South who were interested in living new lives. Wannamaker says the soldiers on both sides had respect for one another and joined forces to start a new life together.

“It was called the soldiers’ colony or the soldiers’ home and it was mostly just to attract other veterans to come out. Because it was founded by soldiers, that would make other soldiers comfortable to come out here,” Wannamaker told the Herald.

But some say the Confederate logo is offensive, particularly to African Americans and other people of color. The latest outcry against the police patches was raised by Lynn Hart, a half-Black, half-Native American man who lives in a nearby town.

“South Dakota doesn’t need that stuff in our state,” Hart told KELO-TV, Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s CBS affiliate.

The Gettysburg Police Department and city government responded to the criticism by changing their Facebook profile pictures to images of the emblem.

“This patch has no racist intentions; it is meant to be another way that we, as a city, represent our heritage,” city officials wrote in a Facebook post on July 13. “Without the war, and without the Battle of Gettysburg, we would not be the same City that we are. The Chief of Police, Bill Wainman, the Mayor, Bill Wuttke, and the City Council have no intentions of changing the police patch.”

E-mail: jhunter@afro.com; Twitter: @hunter_jonathan