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Kanye West defends use of Confederate flag on merchandise

Kanye West's store on Melrose Avenue is seen in this November 2013 photo.

November 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
We're used to rapper Kanye West making headlines for his chart-topping hits, his over the top banter and his reality star fiancée Kim Kardashian. But his latest move has some civil rights activists puzzled and angry: his "Yeezus" tour Confederate flag merchandise.

"That flag represents a symbol of treason, hatred, slavery and racism, and pain and suffering for our community. So for Kanye West to embrace it, he also embraces the ignorance and the racism that it continues to perpetrate," said Najee Ali, political director of the National Action Network, Los Angeles.

Though it might not have answered a lot of questions, West spoke out about his decision in an interview on 97.1 AMP Radio.

"I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It's my flag now. Now, what you gonna do?" the rapper said.

He's even selling the apparel at a pop-up store next to Kim Kardashian's DASH on Melrose Avenue.

"It's all about fashion, and I know it's about making a statement, so I feel like this shirt achieves a style," said customer Melody Wu.

The merchandise inside the store includes Confederate flag hats, bags and t-shirts.

"I didn't know at all. I just came here for Kanye West's merchandise. I didn't know it was for slavery, so I don't think we would have come all this far if I knew that before," said Meggi Haenenfrom, who is visiting from the Netherlands.

The National Action Network is furious about Confederate flag displays, saying it sends the wrong message about a shameful and painful chapter in American history.

"We're here today to say that it's not OK. And we're asking again that it be pulled immediately from the shelves," said Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the National Action Network, Los Angeles.

In the radio interview, West told critics to "react how you want."

"Any energy you got is good energy," he said.

Eyewitness News reached out to West's publicists for comment, but they did not get back to us.

To see more of the interview, visit AMPRadio.com