STATESVILLE, N.C. — The controversy over a massive American flag is now reaching a new level as the company responsible for flying the flag is rallying community support to fight the City of Statesville, which has reportedly filed a lawsuit to have the flag removed.
Camping World posted a message to its Facebook page on Saturday saying the city has filed an injunction against Camping World, fining the company $50 per day going back to Oct. 15, 2018. That totals nearly $11,000.
The company said it flies the 40-by-80-foot flag outside of its Gander RV location as a way of paying tribute to the country’s military veterans. The city had compromised last year by allowing an exemption for a larger flag than what city ordinance permits, but not the size that Camping World was seeking.
The company chose to fly the flag anyway and Camping World’s CEO has pushed for a change of the ordinance.
An online petition has also been started at Change.org in support of the company keeping the flag flying. As of Monday morning, more than 7,900 people had signed the petition.
Channel 9 has covered the debate for years. In 2015, the state said the store couldn't fly the flag because of a city ordinance.
The city's lawsuit claims a flag within 100 feet of a highway cannot be larger than 25 by 40 feet.
The company's CEO told Channel 9 similar flags are up at more than 200 stores across the country, including several cities in North Carolina, none of which have had any problems with them.
“I don’t care if it goes to $500 a day. It's not coming down,” Marcus Lemonis, CEO and chairman of Camping World and Gander RV, said.
Lemonis said it’s personal to him.
“My family has been car dealers, had been car dealers since the 1960s, and our key trademark was always flying our flag in our dealership in south Florida,” he said. “My family is largely immigrants of the country.”
Council minutes from October show leaders tried to amend the ordinance to allow a flag of this size, but the motion failed 3 to 5.
The City of Statesville sent Channel 9 a statement saying Gander RV applied to fly a flag far smaller than the one the company put up.
A spokesperson said the city only started fining the company after asking it to replace the flag several times.