Confederate statues and monuments have become lightning rods for protests, with some cities covering the markers or taking them down. But one community in Alabama has gone the other way, unveiling a new memorial.
The monument to the “unknown” Alabama soldiers of the Confederacy was dedicated on Sunday on private land at the Confederate Veterans Memorial Park in Brantley, a town of about 800 people located 60 miles south of Montgomery.
Cannons were fired during the dedication, which was attended by people in Civil War attire, NBC News reported. About 10 armed members of the Three Percenters, a right-wing militia, also attended wearing fatigues and body armor “in case anything were to happen,” per AL.com.
Attendees said they were honoring the war dead.
“The thing is nowadays everyone wants to take the monuments down so we’re just glad that they’re down here doing this [ceremony],” Vann Royal, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Tallassee, Alabama, told the AL.com. “It’s to let people know that what our ancestors did was not in vain.
Critics called the ceremony divisive and said it didn't matter that the memorial was on private property.
“Confederate symbols and monuments are offensive to far too many citizens, especially blacks/people of African descent,” the state NAACP said in a letter to the Greenville Advocate. “The historical meaning, intent and outright disrespect noted in these Confederate symbols and monuments re-ignite the negative history and memories associated with them.”
Crenshaw County today. For the ones who think it won't happen in your city.— Akoben (@Move_Pencil) August 28, 2017
Brand new Confederate monument being unveiled. pic.twitter.com/EvW4p5G9XN
“If they had to unveil it, why would they unveil it on the heels of such a tragic event that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia,” Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, told NBC station WSFA.
David Coggins, owner and developer of the Confederate Veterans Memorial Park, told The Associated Press that the memorial was ordered a year ago, and the ceremony scheduled months in advance, not in response to Charlottesville.
“It’s important that we remember our heritage and it’s very important we remember our history, for those people that forget their heritage … are doomed to repeat it again,” Coggins said.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.