Last Saturday’s riots in Charlottesville, Virginia have sparked a nationwide debate over Confederate monuments. As this controversy rages, there seem to be three general camps:
•Those who believe matters of racial discord and reconciliation is one discussion and debate over the monuments is another
•Those who sincerely see no distinction between discussions of race and the monuments, but seek civil approaches to both
•Those who don’t care either way and are using Saturday’s tragedy as a justification for mob rule
The third group is the most concerning, as examples of their destruction are emerging daily. In Durham, NC, a statue of Robert E. Lee was pulled down this Monday by an angry mob with no police intervention, though seven protesters were later arrested. Last night in Atlanta, protestors in Piedmont Park defaced the Peace Monument—a sculpture of an angel standing above a Confederate soldier who’s laying his weapon down (pictured above). As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, “Tensions rose as the lone policeman on the scene was surrounded by black-clad Antifa protesters shouting “pig.” Black Lives Matter protesters put themselves between the police officer and the Antifa crowd, and the gathering soon dispersed.”
Determining exactly who these Antifa anarchists are isn’t easy. Some suggest they’re merely flash-mobs of angry kids, while others believe they’re a well-oiled machine of the organized left with an agenda that far exceeds the destruction of Confederate monuments.
As Kevin Williamson wrote in National Review today, “We should not, in any case, accept the fiction that what is transpiring at the moment is a moral crusade rather than political opportunism.” Explaining his position, Williamson wrote,
The war on statuary serves two purposes: The first is to humiliate Southerners in retribution for their support of Republican politicians and conservative causes, particularly religious and social causes…Keeping non-whites in a state of panic and agitation is necessary to Democrats’ political aspirations. Twenty years of economic prosperity and social peace would do grievous damage to the Left: The Reagan boom, which lasted from the early 1980s until nearly the turn of the century, reduced the Left to little more than a few deans of students and had Bill Clinton complaining that he’s been forced to become an Eisenhower Republican to win and keep the presidency.”
Whatever one’s view of these revelers may be, if this week is any indication, they have no intention of letting the moment pass. With more than 700 Confederate statues across America and almost 50 here in Alabama, the stage seems set for widespread chaos, violence, and anarchy if clear boundaries aren’t established soon.
For this reason, the long list of complex cultural and legal issues surrounding this Confederate monument debate seem momentarily overshadowed by one critical question: Will civil authorities do what it takes to quell the crime and violence until these matters are sorted out, or will they give the anarchists the latitude they want to peddle further destruction? If they choose the former, times will be difficult, but positive results can emerge. If they choose the latter, the nation may be in very dangerous waters for a long time to come.
Here in Alabama, Attorney General Steve Marshall quickly sued Birmingham Mayor William Bell after Bell ordered workers to cover the Linn Park Confederate monument. If Marshall sues the mayor of Birmingham, he certainly won’t tolerate mob rule from Antifa activists. As Marshall told Yellowhammer today, “The issue at hand is not about Confederate monuments, it is about enforcing Alabama law prohibiting the altering or disturbing of memorials on public property. The law prevents the altering or disturbing of historically significant monuments.”
Nevertheless, unless things quickly spiral out of control, law enforcement’s initial response will be handled at the local level, not by state officials.
This begs another deeply troubling question, if local authorities across Alabama wait until after the fact to respond as they did in Durham; or if they send one officer to handle a raging mob as they did in Atlanta, will the repugnant white supremacists step into the void and take defense of the monuments into their own hands?
These are not rhetorical questions for hypothetical scenarios. They’re real issues happening in nearby states that Alabama must address today, as anarchists with no regard for the law on both sides seem eager to take their war to the streets of towns across the south. If they think they can make headway here, Alabama will not be exempt.
Tell us what you think about these issues by completing the poll below.