After saying he would not remove the Confederate flag image displayed on his laptop in the Arizona House, Rep. Todd Clodfelter, R-Tucson, said he’ll leave the computer at home instead.
The Tucson Republican’s 180-degree turn came one day after Rep. Geraldine Peten, D-Goodyear, expressed concerns that she could clearly see the flag from her desk, located one row behind Clodfelter’s seat, during a mandatory harassment and ethics training session at the House of Representatives Jan. 9.
“To me it’s intimidating,” she told her colleagues. “It creates a hostile work environment.”
Peten, one of only two African American legislators in Arizona, initially didn’t identify on whose desk she saw the flag, but later told the Arizona Capitol Times it was Clodfelter’s.
Clodfelter initially said the flag — displayed on his personal laptop, he noted, not his state-issued computer — wasn’t going away, and the two lawmakers would have to “agree to disagree.”
“We need to talk more, and we’ve already had a brief discussion and I understand her position, but I also have my position, too,” Clodfelter said Jan. 9. “All my family and ancestry is from the South. And my perspective of the imagery of that particular flag is not the same as hers. So from my perspective, it’s acceptable. From hers, it’s offensive.”
Peten told the Capitol Times that after confronting Clodfelter Jan. 10 and asking him to take down the image, he ensured her she wouldn’t see it again.
The image, Peten said, was “in direct contrast to the training yesterday.”
“If we’re to honor the training we received … that flag has no place here, or anywhere for that matter, but specifically not in the public space,” she said.
Clodfelter clarified that he was only using his personal laptop to finish some “personal business,” but would no longer bring that laptop to the floor and would instead use his state-issued computer. He stood by his argument that the image has different meanings for each of them.
“We obviously have some different opinions but after our conversation today we can work together to learn more about each other … rather than being at odds over an image that she perceives one way and I perceive another,” he said.
Arizona has grappled with Confederate symbols in recent months. Activists have called on Gov. Doug Ducey to take action to remove Confederate monuments from state property following a deadly white nationalist rally in Virginia. Some monuments were also vandalized at the time.
Ducey has resisted, and said he has no interest in removing Confederate monuments from Arizona property.