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Brian Nielsen, 43, drove a Hartland Fire Department truck in the Third of July Parade in the southern Minnesota city of Albert Lea, the Albert Lea Tribune first reported. Nielsen, who's been with the department for about 10 years, flew both the Confederate and American flags from the back of the truck. He said neither his town nor his department had anything to do with it.
Nielsen said he's not for slavery, but did it because he was fed up with political correctness.
"It was my decision and I didn't think it was going to be a big deal, but boy was I wrong," Nielsen told The Associated Press.
He said Hartland Fire Chief Trent Wangen suspended him Sunday pending an investigation.
"More than likely I'll probably be asked to step down," Nielsen said. "I respect that and will do that if they want."
The killings of nine people at a historically black South Carolina church last month have sparked debate nationwide about the appropriateness of displaying the Confederate flag. The man charged in the shooting deaths had posted photographs of himself with the flag on social media.
Nielsen said he didn't think flying the flag would draw as much flak as it has. It's been the subject of critical tweets and Facebook postings. He said a woman wearing a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party patch came up to him and criticized the flag before the parade, but other spectators stood up and clapped as the truck flying both the U.S. and Confederate flags passed by.
Friday's parade was organized by the Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce. Its executive director, Randy Kehr, said the display was "unfortunate" but within the firefighter's rights. He told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis he didn't know ahead of time that the truck would carry the Confederate flag, and probably would have respectfully asked Nielsen not to fly it if he had known.
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