HOT SPRINGS — A rally to preserve a Confederate monument in Hot Springs on the Arlington Lawn at Hot Springs National Park, the fourth in as many months, received more outside attention on Saturday after violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville but was largely peaceful.
James Del Brock, the lead organizer of a group self-styled the Hiway Men, said his group is not linked with the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and his members are advocating “saving our heritage and constitutional rights.”
Brock said his group has been holding this rally for almost two years, since July 4, 2015
7. This was its 29th such rally.
The rally, attended by around 50 people throughout the day, drew a large number of counter-protesters, who gathered a few blocks away, near the intersection of Court and Reserve Street. Counter-protesters, who numbered more than 100, at first attempted to march from their area over to the Confederate rally, chanting “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!”
As they walked past, some of the Hiway Men wanted to yell back, but Brock would not let them.
“No we’re not yelling back at them,” Brock told one of his fellow protesters, “not this time. We’re going to be that peaceful rally that we’re supposed to be.”
In the afternoon, the pro-Confederate group, led by Brock, marched to the monument, past the counter-protesters area to a statue of a Confederate soldier was dedicated in 1934 and
As the pro-Confederate rally passed by the counter-protesting area most stayed on the other side of the street and yelled to “not engage” and chanted “love not hate.”
But, a small number of counter-protesters crossed the street and attempted to block the path of the Hiway Men. Two were arrested for disorderly conduct, said Hot Springs’ officials.
After passing the counter-protesters, the Hiway Men went to the statue — surrounded by dumpsters to prevent it being torn down and where a Confederate flag had been replaced by a balloon with a heart drawn on it — and then marched back to the Hot Springs National Park.
A third arrest was made by the National Park Service when a man tried to light a bandana with Confederate imagery on fire.
“It was too soaked in sweat and wouldn’t burn,” said Tim Looper, who claimed he was the cousin of the man arrested. “No flames and just a bit of smoke — no more than a cigarette lit on the street.”
The city also responded to three medical calls for heat related issues, officials said in a statement.
“There is no doubt that this was a tremendously successful operation because of proper planning, communication and the relationships that we have developed with the many Governmental agencies & community stakeholders,” they said in a statement.
“If the eyes of the nation are going to be upon us they’re going to see how to do it,” said Josie Fernandez, park superintendent for Hot Springs National Park.
Brock said that he hopes the peaceful rally showed that their efforts are not associated with the violence in Charlottesville, walking away from the park around 7 p.m., and that “if allowed a permit we will [be back next month].”
Dennis Deaton, from Hot Springs, a descendant of a Confederate veteran who has attended the previous three rallies said they have “always been peaceful” and that he did not want his movement of “heritage” to be lumped in with white supremacists in Charlottesville or Nazis.
“My father fought in World War II. He was the son of a Confederate veteran,” he said. “It’s a disgrace that these white supremacists fly the Confederate flag. That’s a disgrace.”
But, many in the counter-protest said they were disappointed to see the Confederate flag, which they see part of a campaign of white supremacy.
Oreo Sancho of Hot Springs, who spent time talking with Confederate protesters told them “but, your heritage is hate,” discussing institutional racism in Hot Springs.
Local clergymen and the town’s sole rabbi also attended the rally, opposing the racism they said has been openly expressed and “emboldened” by Charlottesville.
“My perspective is, what is the purpose of trying to conserve a statue?” asked Gregory Nettles, pastor of Visitors Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “What