BRANDON, Miss. (WLBT) - Organizers of the Unity Rally in downtown Brandon Friday announced ahead of time that there would be no destruction of property.
Made up of residents of Brandon and Rankin County, they hoped to open a dialogue. And while they wanted to ask powers that be to move the Confederate statue downtown to somewhere else, they didn’t touch it.
Nor did anyone else. Hardly anyone even stood near the statue during the event. Dr. Ava Harvey said the Unity Ralliers had a few goals.
“Our main objective here is to pray and bring awareness and also to enlighten people on the need to register to vote and also to work together,” he said. “We want to start a healing conversation in Rankin County.”
“We come out here for peace and to try to bring some sense of unity between the police department, the sheriff’s department, and the white community,” said Vickie Jones, the event’s liaison between the black community and law enforcement.
Counter-protesters waved confederate flags and the recently retired Mississippi state flag. They activated car alarms and honked and revved engines during the messages.
Unity came in that almost everyone stopped for the prayers, except one woman who kept up her consistent “Save our statue!” chant.
Some of the counter-protesters were there to protest the unity rally, but many said they just wanted to defend history.
“I want to help protect the statues. The Confederate statues are part of our heritage, they’re our history, they’re paid for by tax dollars and no one group should be able to tear them down,” said Elsie Downing of Richland.
Harvey said he respects the fact that some have that opinion. He said he, like many African-Americans, just don’t share it.
“We have certainly a juxtaposed view of the monument,” he said. “To us it’s a constant reminder of how we were subjugated as people and how the war was fought over slavery. Since 1907 this has just been a thorn in the side of the African-American people here in Rankin County.”
Harvey made it clear that the Unity ralliers extended open arms to the counter-protesters.
As a matter of fact, several Unity ralliers could be seen walking amongst the counter-protesters carrying on conversations. Pretty soon, groups on both sides were protesting peacefully next to each other.
“We actually welcome them. This is America, you have a right to freedom, the right to express your opinion of everything. So we welcome them here. They’re our brothers and sisters in Christ,” Harvey said.