Detroit council grounds Autorama jump due to Confederate flags

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
Rayond Kohn of the Northeast Ohio Dukes drives a General Lee replica form the "Dukes of Hazzard" television show to open the 2017 Autorama behind Cobo Center.

The Detroit City Council on Tuesday rejected Autorama’s request to stage a stunt-jump of a car downtown, accusing the event of supporting the Confederate flag.

This year’s stunt scheduled for March 1 to open the 67th annual hot-rod and custom-car show at Cobo Center called for a "Smokey and the Bandit" replica car going airborne off a ramp, recreating a scene from the 1977 action-comedy with Burt Reynolds.

Councilman Scott Benson said Tuesday during the Detroit City Council meeting that the car “still proudly flies a Confederate flag, which is a symbol of oppression, slavery, as well as home-bred American terrorism. So this body said we are not going to support that type of symbolism nor the audacity to support that type of activity in the city of Detroit.”

The original Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from the movie carried a front license plate with the former state of Georgia flag which features the Confederate battle emblem. Photos on the Facebook page of the Northeast Ohio Dukes, the stunt group doing the jump, show no such flag. The stunt group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The original Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from the 1977 Burt Reynolds movie 'Smokey and the Bandit" had a Confederate flag on the front license plate.

However, in 2017 at Autorama, the Northeast Ohio Dukes jumped a "Dukes of Hazzard"  replica car during its stunt jump on Atwater street behind the GM Renaissance Center. The Confederate flag was painted on the roof of the orange Dodge Charger, just like the original car on the CBS television series that aired from 1979 through 1985.

“Autorama, which has a history in the city of Detroit, also has a history of supporting imagery and symbols of racism, oppression and white supremacy as well as American, home-bred terrorism right here in the United States,” Benson said.

“The Confederate flag which has been a symbol of all of those items was proudly displayed within the last two years during an Autorama car jump when they came and expressly said they would not display that symbol during the jump,” Benson said. “Come to find out they actually displayed that symbol, and that can be seen in YouTube video jumps they did on Atwater Street.”

A spokeswoman for Autorama said Tuesday that the organization could not comment, but that they were trying to resolve the issue with the city. The show is scheduled for March 1-3 at Cobo Center.

Eight city council members either voted against or expressed their disapproval for the stunt jump request Tuesday. Councilman Gabe Leland was absent. 

Benson called the request a “slap in the face” to the residents of a predominantly black city.

The Northeast Ohio Dukes put on shows at fairs and parties. This year's jump "Smokey and the Bandit" jump was billed as a tribute to Burt Reynolds, who died in September.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN