ATHENS, Ala. – A small group of protesters against a confederate monument at the Limestone County Courthouse gathered with a permit Saturday afternoon and were soon joined by another group that voiced their disapproval for removing the monument.
The organizer for the permitted protest says she was unware a counter protest group would be coming until she saw a “Call to Arms” social media post before coming to the courthouse. No protester from either side appeared to be armed. Bringing any weapon to a protest in Alabama is illegal.
“If I ever get like a speeding ticket, or anything, if I go here I feel like I’m not welcome here,” said Diana Isom as she looked at the confederate statue.
“Slavery was real. It was a real moral problem. It’s true that the people in the South wanted to keep that institution. But I think equating a soldiers memorial with that issue, an issue that no longer exists, that has been long solved, is just inappropriate and doesn’t make sense to me,” said Zach Magnusson, a counter protester from Limestone County.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks and Police Chief Floyd Johnson stood not too far away as the two groups exchanged words from across Market Street.
Mayor Marks told NEWS 19 he has no issue with peaceful protest.
Many signs from counter protesters read, “Respect All Veterans.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the street, under the statue, stood a veteran.
“When I think of a veteran, I think of representing their country. That means accepting everybody,” said Travis Jackson, who drove up from Montgomery for this protest.
It might not seem like it, but there was some common ground between the groups when it comes to history. No leaders for either side want the statue damaged or hidden away.
“I’m a descendent of 7 confederate soldiers. And this being my home county, this is my monument, right?” said Magnusson.
“This is history. Every single child and teenager learns history. I just want this statue to be where it belongs. In the history museum or in a civil war cemetery. Somewhere where it deserves to be,” said Isom.
Pro-monument demonstrators don’t see how other local governments are willing to take on fines for moving or removing historic statues.
“They are spending tens of thousands of dollars for no reason, for no good reason,” said Magnusson.
The protesters who want the statue to be removed plan on protesting every other Saturday. They also plan on attending county commission meetings. Monument supporters plan on joining together as long as protesters keep gathering in Athens.
NEWS 19 reached out to several Limestone County Commissioners and never heard back.