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'Redneck' Santa parade float owner told to drop Confederate flags before Nelson event

The creator of a Christmas parade float incorporating Confederate flags says he's been asked to drop the flag for the next parade - and will do so.

Glen James has participated in numerous parades in the Nelson and Richmond area, he said, and on Saturday he took part in the Richmond Parade with a float called "Rednek Xmas".

The float consisted of two large red Dodge Ram trucks decorated with Confederate Battle Flags, with participants wearing redneck-inspired clothing and using alcohol containers as props.

Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne told Stuff the use of alcohol in a parade float aimed at families was inappropriate, as was the use of the flag which many find divisive.

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Mr James said the float was "absolutely" not meant to be a political statement or to offend anyone, and said he was unaware of the escalating disagreement over the flag's use in the US over the past few years.

He said he already apologised to the organiser of the Richmond parade, and has also spoken with organisers for the upcoming parade in Nelson on Sunday, who welcomed him to attend so long as he dropped the flags and alcohol themes.

Mr James said he was confronted by a woman following the Richmond parade, who had expressed a view that the flags were offensive, and said he welcomed and respected that.

He also said he had received "one hate email" about it, but added that many in the community had also been supportive of him.

His thinking when coming up with the 'redneck' theme was partially based on the fact it was easy to pull together, as he has spent thousands of dollars on previous floats.

"There was no political aspect whatsoever, I just used a Confederate flag because I always associated that with being a redneck," Mr James said.

He said he was surprised with the amount of backlash and said he wanted it known he was not in any way a racist.

"I've got rental homes with Maori families in there, I've got Burmese refugee tenants ... so when people say, 'oh that's racist', it's like ... I definitely don't judge people because of their race or colour or background or anything - in any way," Mr James said.

He said he felt a little defeated by having to remove the defining features of his float, but said he would still likely take part regardless, as he didn't want to disappoint anyone.

To anyone who had been personally offended by the use of the flags, Mr James said, "I definitely apologise to them for my actions, and I'll definitely do my best to right that, that's why I was on my way to see the Nelson [parade] organisers".

When asked what exactly he thought the Confederate flag represents, Mr James said he thought of it as a symbol of freedom.

"In my understanding [it's] a freedom/rights [thing] between the southern states of America and the northern states - the southern states being more the redneck states, of course - and that's why I used it ... sort of a symbol of freedom.

"That's how rednecks work - they'll sort of do what they want, live off grid, not live in a house that's permitted, or necessarily do the correct thing - they'll brew their own moonshine and that sort of thing.

"That's the take I've got on it."

The Nelson Santa Parade is due to take place on Sunday between 11am and 2pm.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE CONFEDERATE FLAG AND WHY IS IT SO DIVISIVE?

The Confederate "Battle Flag" was used by the Army of North Viriginia during the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865.

The Army of North Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America, which fought the United States over their right to enslave black people, and lost.

Its display has been controversial in the US for many years due to its association with white supremacy, slavery, segregation, racism and even treason.

The use of the flag underwent a resurgence in the 1960s and was popularly used as a symbol of resistance towards the Civil Rights Movement.

Some southern Americans see the flag more as a symbol of cultural heritage and freedom, and as an opposition to anything liberal.

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    Glen James, who organised the float, says he never meant to offend. Source: Supplied