Rep. Jared Huffman’s car had just gotten underway in the Petaluma Veterans Day Parade on Friday when he turned to the side and noticed something that deeply disturbed him.
Standing just off the sidewalk near Walnut Park along Fourth Street were three young white men, spectators apparently, carrying variations of the Confederate flag.
“I was shocked,” said Huffman, D-San Rafael. “I did a double take.”
Ahead of Huffman in the parade and behind him were groups of veterans from numerous foreign wars stretching back to World War II.
American flags were on bright display. High school marching bands struck patriotic tunes and youth Scouts gave hand-made thank you cards to veterans in the crowd.
The Confederate flags carried by the men — the only ones reported Friday — were a striking exception in an otherwise All-American display.
Huffman, who was elected Tuesday to his third term representing the North Coast, rode in an open-air Jeep and was accompanied by an Army veteran. He held an American flag in his hand as he turned to the trio of men on the parade’s sideline.
“This is our flag,” he shouted above the din of the bands. Then he took a photograph with his cellphone and posted the image on his personal Twitter account.
“More ugliness is coming. This greeted me @ today’s Veterans Day parade in Petaluma. Wonder if they know what those flags really stood for?”
The encounter was one of a growing number of troubling incidents shadowed by racism and violence that have been reported throughout the nation in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election.
Anti-Trump demonstrations in the Bay Area and in cities across the country have resulted in some property damage, vandalism and dozens of arrests.
Huffman said the flag-wielding men did not respond to his comment and seemed to keep to themselves.
Yet the congressman called their message — and the moment they chose to deliver it — “appalling.”
“It doesn’t make sense, and at a minimum it disrespects the veterans who we were supposed to be there to support,” Huffman said.
“I’ve been doing that parade for a dozen years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “This is not an isolated thing. We need to prepare for more of this because the Trump campaign has legitimized and given public space to some shadowy groups that used to hide from public view.”
You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.