By: Jay Hyde, Red Phoenix Correspondent Alabama
In, Albertville, Alabama, my lifelong home, which has a population of around 22,000, there is a growing struggle against a Confederate monument and a Confederate flag that sit outside the Marshall County Courthouse. Local protesters in favor of moving the monument have been clashing with Neo-confederate, Klu Klux Klan, and Neo-Nazi counter-protesters on a bi-weekly basis. The protests have remained consistently peaceful, despite provocation from counter-protesters, which include counter-protesters bringing weapons and using hate speech against the protesters who are in favor of putting the monument in the local city museum. The movement has been a flashpoint of the long-developing divisions within rural, small-town America, and the changing nature of the working class that populate them.
The monument was first erected at the old railroad depot in 1996, but was later moved to the courthouse lawn in 2005. The debate over the monument’s removal was recently rekindled after Birmingham, Alabama removed their confederate monument in Linn Park due to protests against police brutality in the city. More and more Confederate monuments come down across the country every day, as many see the Confederate flag and monuments as symbols of oppression that are associated with slavery, segregation, and the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, most statues and memorials to Confederate soldiers were put up well after the war and during the early 20th century, as symbols of Jim Crow power.
Albertville becomes a more and more diverse city as the days go by. There is also a large Hispanic population and a growing Haitian immigrant population in the area. The influx of manufacturing and poultry plants in the area have contributed to the ever-increasing diversity of the city. Just a walk away from the confederate stained court house, there are many Hispanic and Haitian owned businesses, which contribute culture and provide income to the city. Such are the contradictions that divide thousands of towns across the country that ignited in protest during the George Floyd movement—symbols of white supremacy increasingly challenged by a young, diverse working class, in towns not known for activism or rebellion.
The most common comment I’ve gotten from local protesters is that the monument and flag have no place in front of a courthouse. How does one expect a fair trial, when there is a symbol that has been historically used to oppress the black community flying and standing proudly outside of the court house? Moving the monument is the minimum that needs to be done, and yet the county refuses to hold a vote on doing so.
An open debate between those in favor of moving the monument and those in favor of keeping it at the courthouse was held, and while protesters remained cool and collected in presenting their arguments, the counter-protesters responded by yelling racial slurs whenever they started losing ground, which promptly ended the formal debate. The local Confederacy expert that was brought in to defend the Confederacy promptly left, as those supporting him were obviously not representing what he claimed the Confederacy was—an “anti-authoritarian,” and not explicitly racist state.
On September 23rd, the normal protest in favor of moving the monument was scheduled, but as the news rolled in, it was felt that a demonstration in response to the police that murdered Breonna Taylor not receiving serious charges should be the main focus of the night. Such is the power of local, issues-based organizing: connections made on the streets endure and become a liquid network of activists and people. This included a peaceful march around the city led by local activist and organizer Unique Dunston and Huntsville Black Lives Matter. The counter-protesters were already there and prepared to defend their monument against the peaceful protest. They circled the courthouse in trucks that were flying Confederate flags, Blue Lives Matter Flags, Gadsden flags, and Trump 2020 flags.
Although the counter-protesters continuously insist that the Confederacy was and is not racist, they kept pouring water on the chalk art with Breonna Taylor’s name written on it, and they declared her a criminal that deserved what she got. Protesters began using a snare drum and chants to drown out the constant hate speech and threats of violence. As the night went on, things remained peaceful, even though a counter-protester swung his fist at a Black Lives Matter protester.
It is obvious what decision needs to be made. These monuments need to come down, especially in Alabama, which has played such a vital role in the struggle for civil rights. Everywhere they are, they embolden racists and their defenders, as they were always meant to do. The county is still refusing to hold a vote, but protesters are confident that they are not going anywhere until that monument is moved. For Breonna Taylor, the thousands lynched across the region in the 20th century, George Floyd and so many others, and for a society that values all human life equally, the protests will continue on bi-weekly basis.
Categories: U.S. News