Up until this past week, the protests linked to the discussions on what to do with the Confederate statue on the grounds of the Lauderdale County Courthouse have been peaceful.

Participants have voiced their thoughts on whether the monument should be moved, and have done so in a manner that has earned praise from community leaders.

That changed last Monday night, and the abrupt swing caught many off guard, including law enforcement officials.

There’s little doubt that emotions have smoldered a bit throughout the weeks of meetings on what to do with the statue.

After city of Florence officials discovered they actually owned the statue, they agreed to move it to the Soldier’s Rest area of the city cemetery. They even found members of the business community willing to pay the relocation costs and the $25,000 state fine for violating the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act. All they asked of the county in return was a resolution giving the city permission to move the statue, and releasing it of any potential liabilities.

The delayed response of county commissioners and their decision not to give the city a resolution didn’t help matters.

The rising discontent was clearly on display last Monday night. Tempers flared as someone who wants the monument moved began writing a message in chalk on the statue.

Videos posted on social media suggest there were a couple of instances where it looked like there was some contact between participants on opposing sides. Watching those videos, you can’t help but notice the loud proclamations of one participant who repeatedly claims someone was guilty of putting their hands on another person. And then someone appears to take a slap at a telephone being held by another protester.

Things were pretty tense for a few minutes.

Lauderdale Sheriff Rick Singleton admitted afterward the change in the tone of last week’s protest caught his deputies by surprise.

“We fumbled the ball there because we didn’t have a lot of deputies assigned to the event, because we really hadn’t had the need,” Singleton said, pointing out that in previous weeks, participants of both groups have been very cooperative.

The sheriff said law enforcement will be better prepared in the future.

“Nobody needs to be vandalizing the statue,” Singleton said, adding that when protestors start “physically touching each other, that’s going too far.”

He also warned participants about making verbal threats, or using obscene language or gestures in an attempt to aggravate the crowd.

We’ve shown in weeks past that expressions of concern can be shared with civility. Hopefully, that will continue to be the way our citizens act in future demonstrations.

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(2) comments

Walter Bradford

Never forget the old adage, "Stupid is as Stupid does." It is usually the groups directly involved in an issue that drag the matter from ethical to immoral. The groups involved in these improper incidents should be held materially liable for their members actions as well as those members themselves for their own actions. For those very people who claim to be standing for ethical and moral justice to then begin acting like school-yard hoodlums is in fact a contradiction in terms and is nothing more than unbranded hooliganism. Since those claiming to be in the moral right of this matter, are they not required to purchase permits to demonstrate? Are they required to have Liability Insurance just to cover such incendiary actions as graffiti? That singular event will not be apologized for by any member of the group that wants the statue relocated because they believe they have an inherent right to act anyway they wish, public laws be damned. Not so, public decorum is a requirement of all. And no special interest group carries anymore weight than another. Also there was reports in the previous week that a lawsuit has been acted on by town members that demand the statue be left in it's current location, untouched, unaltered has that matter been acted on as yet? If not then this Project Say Something, with it's more violent and uncivilized contingency must adhere to the outcomes of that suit as well. They haven't any legal standing in the matter and they are legally obliged to obey any court actions as the become stated. Both sides need to act more civilized and be more civically minded with the other groups and realize that vandalism of any public property carries a heavy penalty. In this case a possible fine of $25,000.00 and yes that could be made payable for graffiti. Being Stupid is not a good idea!

James Baker

Well said. As also said "give them an inch. They'll take a mile " well something like that.

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