FLORENCE — Police and Mayor Steve Holt have issued messages ahead of possible protests and counter protests regarding the Confederate monument at the Lauderdale County Courthouse.

Police issued a notice on Facebook stating there are the protests that are planned for tonight and Saturday.

"We are also aware of recent social media rhetoric which seems intent on escalating conflict between these groups," the statement reads. "Let these points be very clear: Speech is protected by the First Amendment. Peaceful protests are protected by the First Amendment. However, disorderly, threatening, and/or violent behavior of any sort is NOT protected, it is criminal. The Police Department and Sheriffs Department are working closely together to ensure this weekends events remain peaceful. We stand ready to make custodial arrests of any individual involved in criminal activity."

The department statement also said sound amplification devices such as megaphones are not permitted.

"Consider this your warning," the statement reads.

It states the department supports anyone wishing to exercise the First Amendment right to peacefully assemble.

"However, we will not permit criminal behavior to compromise anyone’s public safety," the department said.

It also urges anyone who attends to follow Gov. Kay Ivey's order to wear a mask and use social distancing.

The statement also lists criminal codes, including disorderly conduct, menacing and inciting a riot.

Holt this afternoon issued a statement saying he understands there are strong opinions on whether to keep the monument in front of the courthouse or move it to Soldier's Rest in Florence City Cemetery.

"As we always have, we support the freedom of speech and the expression of differing viewpoints," Holt said in the statement. "Please know, however, we cannot and will not condone unlawful actions. If demonstrations turn unlawful, they will be disbursed. I fully support our Florence Police Department and their statement."

A Monday night, protest became tense when people supporting and opposing moving the monument gathered in front of the courthouse.

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bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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