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Virginia Police Brace for Possible Violence Ahead of Clashing Parades Honoring MLK, Confederate Generals

Confederate and MLK Parades

The parade honoring Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson has been around for 15 years in Lexington. (Image courtesy of The Roanoke Times)

With tensions still high after the Charlottesville violence last summer, Virginia police plan to increase their presence at two dueling parades celebrating Confederate generals and Martin Luther King Jr., this weekend.

Members of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans group are expected to march on down Lexington’s Main Street on Saturday, Jan. 13, the Roanoke Times reported. Two days later, another group, the Community Anti-Racism Effort (CARE) will march down the same street to promote peace and equality.

The two parades spark passion on both sides (no pun intended) each year, as Virginia is the only state that celebrates Lee-Jackson Day, a holiday honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, just two days before the federal holiday honoring MLK Jr.

“We believe they were great military heroes and men of great character that people should take note of and even emulate,” Brandon Dorsey of the Sons of Confederate Veterans told the newspaper, adding there’s ample room for both SCV and CARE to coexist this weekend.

“There’s no reason to have a conflict,” he said.

While there were little to no issues last year, Lt. Michael Frost with the Lexington Police Department confirmed there would be an increased officer presence. He said event the organizers requested more officers in light of the clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville last August. A woman was killed and several others injured after a neo-Nazi rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters.

“Ever since Charlottesville, people are sketchy about gatherings like this and we certainly took that in consideration when planning for the events,” Frost said.

The parade honoring Gens. Lee and Jackson has gone on in Lexington for the last 15 years, but the one celebrating civil rights icon King is more recent. The event first came about last year in response to the increase in racist incidents across the country after the election of President Donald Trump, according to The Roanoke Times.

Last year, CARE almost displaced the Confederate event after it had booked the Sons of Confederate Veterans group’s usual date for its own parade. The Confederate group was ultimately forced to reschedule, as the city of Lexington only allows one parade per day.

CARE declined to switch days with SCV as well, sparking controversy. In response, members of the Virginia Flaggers, an organization that defends the Confederate flag, showed up to the CARE parade waving the ‘ol Dixie flag. The event remained peaceful, however.

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