Shared message of peace precedes dueling rally and protest scheduled for Saturday

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - As controversy continues to surround the confederate statue at the Madison County Courthouse square, a rally and counter-protest are planned for and against the monument, respectively.

They will each be held on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.

The rally, which organizers call the Dixie Rally at the Square, is in support of the monument. The marble Confederate private was erected on November 21, 1905. A plaque next to it says it was dedicated to the Confederate dead.

Karen Lower, the rally's organizer, said it will be people coming together to keep a monument that is misunderstood. She chose to help organize this protest after leading a similar one two years ago.

"It's about history and heritage," she explained. "It's about historical truth, the good and the bad, and the heritage of the Southern folks."

She said for her, it is not about slavery or white supremacy. She called those "nasty," instead telling us she wants opponents to understand this is about family and remembering those who died.

Lower said people whose ancestors fought in the Civil War will speak at the rally Saturday. She plans to dress as Martha Washington. There will be music from Leah Seawright and drummer Mark Herndon. Representatives from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and keynote speaker Kenneth Kilgore will also be there.

Lower said this is a chance for people who think the monument should stay to be heard.

"This is the people's rally. This is the Dixie people's rally for this and they have a voice. They have a forum for this."

But on the other side of the street will be counter-protestors from the North Alabama Democratic Socialists of America and the Tennessee Valley Progressive Alliance.

These groups were involved in another demonstration several weeks ago and areĀ asking to have the statue removed.

Organizers of this counter-protest said they want to show Huntsville that there is opposition for the monument.

"We don't want it on government property. A courthouse is supposed to be about justice and equality. But if people have to walk past a statue that represents white supremacy and slavery, and the Confederacy, I think that is kind of antithetical to what a courthouse should be," said Alex Caldwell.

He, too, believes there is misunderstanding surrounding the monument: "It does represent our heritage but it's not a heritage we should be proud of," he stated.

Caldwell is the co-chair of the North Alabama DSA. He said counter-protestors will carry signs and yell chants: "basically making noise and trying to cause a disruption and show our displeasure as to what's happening," he explained.

Despite the opposing views of these two groups, each one is asking for non-violence Saturday.

"We don't want any confrontation, any violence, anything like that," said Caldwell. "We are going to stay on the opposite side of the street. I'm sure the police will keep it that way."

He urged counter-protestors who join him, "Show your opposition, but don't be openly hostile on purpose to cause a confrontation. Bring bottled water too," he said. "We don't want to get dehydrated."

Lower felt the same way. She spoke to an issue that had some concerned Friday: "Please abide to the law. We don't need guns there. One hot head can get into another person's hot head and things can get ugly. I don't want any hate talk."

Police, too, are asking that you leave your weapons at home.

Lower added that she is praying for peace, and urging it for all who attend.

"We will be peaceful at our rally of course because we are peaceful, loving people," she said. "I will say a lot of them are hurt, that are coming. A lot of them are hurt because they feel their heritage is being attacked... I'm praying that there's peace and maybe some understanding with it all."

Her message to counter-protestors: "I love you."

Both sides expressed confidence in Huntsville Police and the other agencies on-scene to help if there is a problem. WHNT News 19 also spoke to authorities on the subject.

Each side also recognized the other's right to protest and speak under the First Amendment.

WHNT News 19 has learned that both the rally-goers and the counter-protestors have permits to be at the courthouse and across the street, respectively.

As of Friday evening, 23 people were listed as "going" to the Dixie Rally and 64 were listed as "going" to the planned counter-protest through the Facebook event pages.