As Confederate monuments continue coming down across the U.S. following deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Va., an Alabama city went against the grain and erected a new one over the weekend.
Over 500 people gathered on Sunday, Aug. 27, for the unveiling of a brand new monument honoring “Unknown Alabama Confederate Soldiers” at Confederate Veterans Memorial Park in Brantley, Ala., NBC News reported.
The weekend ceremony was replete with cannon blasts and Civil War re-enactors dressed in period clothing, as a red cloth was pulled back to reveal the monument. The Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans also were in attendance, according to the network.
Site owner and developer David Coggins told NBC affiliate WSFA he had some reservations about the timing of the unveiling, which comes just two weeks after a white nationalist rally left one woman dead and 19 others badly injured. The violent demonstration was organized in response to efforts to remove statues honoring Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
“We had some concerns,” Coggins said. “There are people who are opposed to what we do. Our intentions are good.”
The Montgomery man added that the timing of the unveiling, which occurred on his private property, was purely coincidental, as the event was planned months ahead of time.
“This was planned several months ago,” he continued. “Matter of fact, the monument was ordered last year and it’s taken this long to get it in the ground and ready to unveil.”
Benard Simelton, president of Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, didn’t buy Coggins’ explanation, however.
Simelton and others opposed to the presence of Confederate monuments argued that such statues are “symbols of hatred and bigotry” that must be taken down.
“If he [Coggins] supports, and if he rallies around the Confederate flag and monuments, then you know he’s a racist,” he told the news station. “If they had to unveil it, why would they unveil it on the heels of such a tragic event that happened in Charlottesville, Va.?”
Coggins insisted that he is not a racist, adding that all of monuments and flags on his property celebrate heritage, not hate. For him, the goal is to preserve history.
“There’s nothing racist about us,” he explained to WSFA. We’re not white supremacists, matter of fact, we have members in our organization who are Black. We have Hispanic members, we have Native American members, we have members from all over and all nationalities and they shouldn’t be concerned about any sign of offense here from us, because we honor all of those veterans.
“We’re color-blind as far as that goes. We make no distinction,” Coggins added.
The Montgomery man said he has plans to expand the park and add more monuments.