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You can visit Petersburg National Battlefield but you can’t buy a Confederate flag there

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RICHMOND, Va. -- The Confederate Flag does not mean anything to five-year-old Ian Neilson who visited Petersburg National Battlefield on Thursday from Seattle, Washington.

“It looks like the American flag, but in different design,” Neilson said.

But to others, who have lived many more years, there are deep rooted beliefs about the battle flag.

“The so called Southern flag, rebel flag, just some racist foolishness,” Dwyane Lewis, who biked past a Confederate flag display on Monument Avenue, said.

“I think it’s great that people actually hold onto their history like that,” Tammy Neilson, who brought her son, Ian, to Petersburg, said.

Those various viewpoints are once again coming to a head in the former capitol of the Confederacy where people are taking to Monument Avenue to express their views.

“This is a symbol, it’s American history, our confederate veterans are American veterans,” Manny Vega, who held a Confederate flag next to Stonewall Jackson’s monument, said.

“Anyone who is proud of it is a racist, that’s just the end of the story,” said a young woman who stood holding a sign by the Jefferson Monument that read “Confederate = Racist.”

Several miles south of Richmond in Petersburg, visitors like Ian and Tammy Neilson came to the battlefield to learn about the very history that is being debated.

“Kinda gave me a new outlook on what that flag represents,” Deborah Watson, who visited the Battlefield from Ohio on Thursday, said.

But, a new directive from the National Parks Service means visitors will not be able to buy Confederate flag pins or Confederate flags in park gift shops anymore.

“This is the second national flag for the Confederacy…for now we are going to withhold that flag,” Chris Bryce with Petersburg National Battlefield, said.

Bryce said that is the only piece of merchandise they decided to pull from store shelves.

A decision that Watson said, “just does not make sense, it’s part of this history.”