The fate of statues of Confederate officers, who fought for southern states aiming to preserve slavery during the American Civil War, is still a very divisive issue in the US

The Confederate monument in Denton, Texas -an edifice complete with what some say were once segregated drinking fountains and an armed soldier adorning its arc- turned 100 last year.

Erected in 1918 by the Daughters of the Confederacy’s Katie Daffan chapter, the monument received its first historical designation in 1970, when it was dubbed a Texas Historic Landmark.

Willie Hudspeth, a 74-year-old civil rights activist and Denton local, has been holding near weekly protests in front of the monument for almost two decades.

Almost every week, Hudspeth stands in Denton’s historic town square- sometimes accompanied by fellow demonstrators, often by himself- and holds placards calling for the monument to be taken down and relocated to a museum.

“The main thing helping my cause is that new people to this area don't understand why they are still standing,” Hudspeth, who is president of the local NAACP chapter, told TRT World.

“We are going to keep posting up right outside that monument... and keep talking to people about that monument,” he added.

In recent years, the presence of Confederate monuments in communities around the nation has become a magnet for protests.

Over the weekend, hundreds of demonstrators and counter-protesters turned out for several hours in Pittsboro, North Carolina, where they rallied for and against a local Confederate monument.

Among the supporters of the monument were several organisations designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Alabama-based hate monitor.

“Neo-Confederate groups like these spend untold amounts of time, money, and energy fighting imagined slights,” Howard Graves, senior research analyst for the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said in a statement issued ahead of the protest.

“Their aggressive efforts often result in arrests and sometimes violence,” Graves said, adding that the rally would “provide extremists with another opportunity to intimidate, traumatise and undermine the will of a community that has already chosen to remove this symbol of white supremacy from its midst”.

Racist connotations

In June 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African American worshippers in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Soon after emerged Roof’s manifesto, a series of racist tirades lashing out at African Americans and immigrants, among others.

News programmes around the nation broadcast photos of Roof posing with the Confederate flag.

The images ignited a nationwide resurgence of demonstrations and activism against Confederate symbols and monuments, and Denton was no exception.

Hudspeth suddenly received a swell of attention- much of it supportive, some of it negative- for his longstanding campaign to have the statue removed.

Support for his effort has since come in ebbs and flows, he said.

“I've been doing this since 1999,” he explained, “and the change has been two-fold. I've changed in what I think the reason for them to be removed is, and the migration of people coming from other areas [of the country] to the south with different views.”

But more than four years later, the monument still stands, even after Confederate monuments around the US are toppled or removed by city authorities.

In the three years following Roof’s slaughter in South Carolina, state and city governments removed at least 110 publicly-supported monuments and tributes to the Confederacy, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted in June 2018.

Yet the number of monuments, place names and other symbols paying homage to the Confederacy still topped 1,700, the SPLC added.

Neo-Nazi rallies

In August 2017, white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis travelled from across the country to Charlottesville, Virginia, where they held a massive rally against the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E Lee, the Confederacy’s foremost military figure.

As protesters and anti-racist demonstrators clashed throughout the city for most of the day, one far-right participant -James Alex Fields, Jr - ploughed his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring more than 30 others.

In the wake of the bloodshed in Charlottesville, more Confederate monuments were torn down in cities around the US. The statues were removed in several big cities around the nation, including Dallas, Austin, Charlottesville and Chapel Hill, among others.

But in some parts of the country, more Confederate monuments are going up. In Orange, Texas, local activists have protested against a monument welcoming travellers entering the state from neighbouring Louisiana.

The monument, funded by the Sons of Confederate Veterans organisation, sits on private land and includes 13 columns and 32 flags, one for each Confederate military unit that was based in Texas.

Because it is on private land, however, activists have little chance at getting the monument taken down. Rather, they have put up a sign that declares the monument “doesn’t reflect Orange, Texas, community values.”

Elsewhere, in Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has recently unveiled a new Confederate monument at the Third Winchester Battlefield Park.

“Unlike some other places throughout the country, here in the National Historic District monuments are going up, not coming down,” Keven Walker, head of the foundation, told the crowd during the unveiling, as reported by the Winchester Star local newspaper at the time.

For his part, Texas-based activist Willie Hudspeth believes that the Confederate monument will inevitably be removed.

“In our case, we are doing this in a peaceful way,” he said. “I've had people tell me they will take it down on their own... but it takes time when you do it right.”

Source: TRT World