Rest assured, Maryland flag protectors: The governor has no intention of changing the state banner.

Responding to a petition started late last week by conservative blog Red Maryland, Larry Hogan posted on his public Facebook page today: “Not only is the Maryland state flag a symbol of unity and pride, but it is also the most beautiful and most recognized state flag in America. You can rest assured that it will never be changed as long as I’m governor.”

The petition asserts that the Maryland flag is “under attack” by “radicals who want to force” the state government to change the historic emblem. More than 39,000 people have signed the petition as of Thursday at 1 p.m., a 10,000-signature jump from earlier in the day.

The rallying cry comes weeks after Baltimore-based activist and graphic designer Ben Jancewicz drew attention to the flag’s Confederate ties in a viral Twitter thread. As he pointed out, the pattern in the upper-left and lower-right quadrants is the family crest of George Calvert, the original Lord Baltimore whose sons founded and led the Maryland colony before the United States successfully fought for its independence.

The pattern in the lower-left and upper-right quadrants represents the Crossland family, Calvert’s ancestors on his mother’s side. However, it took on new meaning during the Civil War, when Maryland joined the Union and abolished slavery in its state constitution.

Not everyone in the “Free State” (a nickname later popularized by a Baltimore Sun editor needling a Georgia congressman about Prohibition) agreed with the abolitionist cause, and many residents sided with the Confederacy. In need of a symbol to represent their rebellion, they adopted the Crossland crest as their flag.

During the years of post-Civil War reunification, the flag began appearing as a hybrid of both crests, as it’s currently laid out. State archives say “neither the designer nor the date of origin of this new Maryland flag is certain, but a banner in this form was known at least by October 1880,” when it flew during a parade marking Baltimore’s 150th birthday. The General Assembly eventually adopted it as the official flag in 1904.

Jancewicz, reached via Facebook, wrote in a message that black Marylanders “never got a say whether or not the flag that represented them contained symbols used by a force meant to oppress them.”

Red Maryland launched its petition days after Baltimore and state leaders, including Hogan, ordered the removals of Confederate monuments and statues of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who ruled in 1857 that black people could only be property and never U.S. citizens.

No Maryland lawmakers have publicly called for the state to change its flag.

Jancewicz noted as much, describing the petition as “an alarmist reaction by Maryland Republicans designed to rile people up based on the false idea that anyone is asking the flag to be taken down.”

He added that many conservatives have recently grown defensive of Confederate history as monuments and symbols have come down in an expedient fashion. He said they “are under some impression that this means that history is being erased. I’m doing the opposite of that. I want history, especially the history of white supremacy in Maryland, to be laid open and bare.”

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...