Confrontation at the Peace Memorial

Okay, not quite the same, but a flimsy excuse for referencing Dr. Strangelove is better than none at all.

Saturday, March 5, 2016, was the SCV’s “confederate flag day” at Gettysburg National Military Park’s Eternal Flame Peace Memorial. They were confronted by a group opposed to the racist symbol. Local media covered the event, scheduled to take place from two o’clock through four o’clock in the afternoon. See stories here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. You can also see the write-up at the Park’s blog here.

I was at the winter lecture and didn’t get to the site until about 3PM. By that time most of the hoopla was over. Press reports put the numbers of the pro-racist symbol group at over 200. There were significantly fewer when I arrived.

Protest-3

Reports placed the numbers opposed to the racist symbol as about 100. Again, there were significantly fewer when I got there.

Protest-1

Neither side acquitted themselves very well, in my opinion. Shortly after I arrived, a pro-racist symbol person in a pickup truck with a Trump placard on the tailgate flashed an obscene gesture at the protesters, while the protesters were loud and vulgar in their language. Stereotypes were confirmed by many. A large number of pro-racist symbol people were in pickup trucks with conservative political signs and stickers on their vehicles, and some of the protesters were in vehicles with “Feel the Bern” bumper stickers. Then there were the stereotype-breakers like the pro-racist symbol person in the car with Massachusetts plates and the anti-racist symbol protester from Texas. One thing that struck me was the pro-racist symbol people were all white while the protesters were a diverse group.

At one point one of the pro-racist symbol people exited his pickup truck and went over to the protesters to, it seemed, try to initiate a physical confrontation.

Protest-18

Law Enforcement Park Rangers responded quickly and professionally, getting between him and the protesters and sending him back to his pickup truck.

Park personnel did an outstanding job keeping the two groups separated.

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The protesters were well prepared with signs and megaphones. For some reason many of them had their faces covered, were wearing black, and were carrying black flags. One of them joked that he covered his face because he was ugly.

Protest-25 Protest-26 Protest-29

The protesters did all they could to insult and verbally provoke the pro-racist symbol people.

I saw no meaningful exchanges and no discussion of ideas. I only saw two groups opposed to each other insulting each other.

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The news media folks didn’t know enough about the issues to ask intelligent questions to probe beyond the most superficial responses. For example, I would have liked to have seen them get answers from those who denied the centrality of slavery to the confederate war effort as to where they got their information, specifically–which books, whether or not they read the Declarations of Causes of the seceding states, and how they explained the statements and writings of the secessionists that stressed they were acting to protect slavery.

The only folks who, in my opinion, looked good were the Park Service folks, who kept a lid on things and were completely professional throughout. The protesters would have looked much better if they didn’t have their faces covered and had US Flags, and were well versed in the history and engaged based on the history. One individual with a megaphone did make some historical references, but they were too few. Professor Hancock, who organized the protest, knows his history, but his voice was not evident except in the interview he did with the news media. Most importantly for me, though, is they should have kept the language clean. If they maintain the high ground, in my opinion, it makes their case all that much stronger. They drew attention to themselves, but only the same attention one gives a car crash or a train wreck. It would have been nice to see an engagement of ideas instead of noise and name-calling, but I suppose I don’t understand what protests are all about.

Things began to wind down further by about 3:30, with more people dispersing. I was in my car to leave by 3:45. By that time there were only a handful of people left on both sides, and they were getting ready to leave.

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8 comments

  1. bob carey · · Reply

    Al;
    A couple of comments if you please.
    I agree 100 percent with your observation that the counter demonstrators should have taken the high road. Vulgarity and hiding behind a mask are more the marks of the Klan than a meaningful message.
    That Trump supporter you spotted (I suspect there was more than one) should be informed that their boy is on record saying that the CBF belongs in a museum. This is about the only thing that I agree with him on.
    Great post and good reporting. Have you ever considered a second career in journalism?

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Bob. I don’t think I’d make a good journalist. My sense of historical perspective goes beyond last Tuesday. 😉

  2. Charlie · · Reply

    There is never a bad excuse to reference “Dr. Strangelove.”
    Great Movie! I wish these Flagger types would watch it and maybe they would be smarter….

    1. It’s one of my all-time favorites. My position on the B-52 was played by James Earl Jones.

  3. bob carey · · Reply

    Al;
    Thanks for your service
    As far as historians as journalist I always thought their should be a news channel featuring only historians commenting on the news based on historical events. This Trump thing is very much like the Know-Nothing movement. I don’t think there is anything new under the sun concerning human motivation

    1. For historians commenting on current news, see: http://historynewsnetwork.org/

      I agree, there’s nothing new under the sun.

  4. bob carey · · Reply

    Thanks for the link. I just checked it out and I will probably become an avid reader.

  5. Sounds very similar to the atmosphere of the Confederate flag rally that was held in DC last year. The anti-CBF people also used profane, vulgar language that didn’t help their case one bit. however, I read some of the comments on the FB page dedicated to organizing the CBF rally. It was more like “Heritage AND Hate” instead of the only nostalgic memories they want to proclaim. I recall that many also wanted to be able to bring their firearms into- as someone put it- “Coontown.” Once again, not heritage; just hate.

    Anyway, in both cases, I don’t believe that either rally accomplished much. I doubt anyone changed their minds on the issue.

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