Politics

Removal Of Confederate Monuments Spurs Backlash

| by Robert Fowler
Demonstrators at a Confederate gathering in Gettysburg, PennsylvaniaDemonstrators at a Confederate gathering in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

On July 1, groups opposed to the removal of Confederate monuments gathered in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Participants, anticipating protests that never arrived, were heavily armed and fiery in their rhetoric.

Sons of Confederate Veterans leader Ted Fields rallied the crowd by asserting that the removal of Confederate monuments was the first step in a leftist plot to undermine the U.S., HuffPost reports.

"The next thing you know, they're going to take our Constitution and say: 'You know what? That was written by slave-holders, it's racist, so let's get rid of it and become a communist nation.' I don't want that on my watch." Fields said through a megaphone.

"I salute the Confederate flag with affection, reverence and undying devotion to the cause for which it stands," hundreds of attendees recited in unison.

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While advocacy for the removal of Confederate monuments across the U.S. has had some success since 2015, it has also sparked fierce demonstrations and legislative pushback. While critics of Confederate monuments assert that the fixtures enshrine slaveholders and white supremacists, supporters of the artifacts consider their removal an erasure of history and demeaning to Southerners.

Pat Roller of Maryland, a photographer for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, expressed dismay over the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments.

"It makes me want to cry," Roller told Fox News. "I have ancestry on both sides."

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The photographer added that calls to take the monuments down made her "a little angry."

There has always been activism to uproot shrines to the Confederacy, but lawmakers historically were not receptive to the requests. In June 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof shocked the nation by murdering nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Since that mass shooting, 60 Confederate monuments have been taken down across the country.

Activist Tami Sawyer of the Memphians for the Removal of Confederate Monuments has petitioned for the removal of statues commemorating Confederate States President Jefferson Davis and Ku Klux Klan member Nathan Bedford Forrest from Memphis, Tennessee.

"Kids see these statues and think they're for great people," Sawyer told Al Jazeera. "These statues don't say anything about the atrocities."

Like the Civil War itself, the debate surrounding the monuments has split families.

"I don't want my kids to think this is normal or that these men are heroes ... There are people in my immediate family who are fierce supporters of the flag," said Dana Simpson of Atlanta, Georgia. "It's a tough and emotional issue for everyone."

Some states have already moved towards slapping protections on their Confederate shrines. On May 25, GOP Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed the Memorial Preservation Act, exempting any monuments erected 40 or more years ago from removal. The legislation was largely viewed as a preservation of the state's Confederate monuments, The Associated Press reports.

On June 28, New Orleans resident Frank Stewart circulated a petition calling for the city to reinstall four Confederate monuments that had been recently removed, according to NOLA.com.

The League of the South asserted that the removal of the city's monuments was intended "to rub salt into the wounds of the Southern People."

On May 19, Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans defended his decision to remove the monuments, asserting that they were markers of historical revisionism, according to The Atlantic.

"There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it ... These statues are not just stone and metal," Landrieu said. "They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for."

The mayor added that the monuments "were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city."

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Associated Press via NOLA.com, The AtlanticFox News, Huffington PostNOLA.com / Photo credits: Andy Campbell/HuffPostTim1965/Wikimedia Commons (2)

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