Little activity expected at Confederate sites
A year after violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, rekindled debates over what to do with Civil War-era monuments, Arizona’s six public memorials to Confederate soldiers remain standing.
Two of the monuments were vandalized in the wake of last year’s protests, and while there were calls then to remove them, officials said Friday they were not aware of any protests planned at the sites this weekend.
Emotions seethed last year as white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us,” partly in response to the city’s attempt to take down monuments to the Confederacy.
But the marchers were met by counter protesters, and the eruption of violence left one woman dead and dozens of others injured.
The so-called “Unite the Right” rally made Charlottesville the latest symbol for the nation’s racial divide, as President Donald Trump appeared to deliver a backhanded defense of the white nationalists by saying there were “some very fine people on both sides” of the protests.
Reverberations were felt across the country, including Arizona, where one Confederate monument was defaced with spray paint and another was tarred and feathered.
For weeks, groups like the Sons of Confederate War Veterans debated the need to honor history with those who questioned why the state would use public land and resources to honor anyone who fought to preserve slavery. Critics of the monuments called on Gov. Doug Ducey to order the monuments removed.
Another Unite the Right rally is planned this weekend in Washington, D.C., to mark the first anniversary of Charlottesville and observers wonder whether history will repeat itself.
In Arizona, things appear much more calm.
Capitol Police Sgt. Arnie Stolz said Friday that his agency had no plans to increase security around the most prominent of Arizona’s memorials, which was erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy at the State Capitol in 1961.
The monument, in Wesley Bolin Plaza, is surrounded by some 20 other memorials.
Last year someone vandalized it with spray paint.
A second monument, this one designating a stretch of highway along U.S. 60 near Apache Junction in honor of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was tarred and feathered.
A state Department of Public Safety public information officer had not received a reply from investigators late Friday on whether anyone had been arrested in either case.
In Sierra Vista, the site of a third monument, there were no plans to increase patrols in the Southern Arizona Veterans Cemetery, where the remains of 21 Confederate soldiers who later fought with the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars are buried.
A memorial to those soldiers was placed at the cemetery by the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate War Veterans in 2010.
Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Nicole Baker said she had heard of no plans for protests or vigils at the site.
A spokeswoman at Picacho Peak State Park, the site of the westernmost skirmish of the Civil War in 1862, said she also had not heard of any events being planned for this weekend. She would not comment on whether any increased patrols were planned.
The park has a memorial to the Confederate soldiers who fought in the battle that was erected in 1958 and refers to the Civil War as the “war between the states.”
The sign was placed by the Sons of the Confederate War Veterans, which is also responsible for Arizona’s two other public memorials. One honors a small group of Confederate soldiers who were killed by Apaches at Dragoon Springs, just east of the town of Benson three weeks after the Picacho Peak skirmish; and another was placed at Greenwood Memorial Cemetery that honors Arizona Confederate soldiers in general.
Bill Long, adjutant for the organization, said he was unaware of any events taking place near Confederate monuments or any efforts to guard them.