NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The number of Tennesseans with Confederate battle flag license plates has reached its highest point in a decade.
Data from the Tennessee Department of Revenue shows that 3,273 of the license plates benefiting the Sons of Confederate Veterans were active at the end of the 2018 fiscal year, The Tennessean reported .
That number represents a 72 percent increase from the end of the 2015 fiscal year, when the national debate of the display of Confederate flags reached a fever pitch following the massacre of nine black worshippers slain at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The man sentenced to death in the June 2015 slayings said he intended to inflame racial tensions, leaving behind photos of himself posing at historical Civil War and African-American sites and holding the Confederate flag.
The Tennessee plate was introduced in 2004, but data on the number of active plates isn’t available until 2008.
The Tennessee division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans received around $57,700 in revenue from the plates in the 2018 fiscal year, according to the state’s revenue department. Those funds help fund the chapter’s ongoing legal fight against the city of Memphis over the removal of Confederate statues, division commander James Patterson said.
After the Charleston shooting, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam expressed support for discontinuing the license plates, but then later backed away from supporting Democratic legislation that would have done so.