UPDATE: One man was wounded after he shot himself in the leg when his revolver accidentally discharged during a free speech rally held at Gettysburg National Military Park on Saturday. Some protesters went to the battlefield in anticipation that anarchists were planning to burn Confederate flags at the site during the battle anniversary . Those protests did not materialize.
Officials in Gettysburg are bracing for protests this weekend coinciding with the 154th anniversary of the Civil War battle.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans and a group called Real 3% Risen have received special use permits for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in a special section north of Meade’s Headquarters.
“We make accommodations for people who want to exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Katie Lawhon, a spokeswoman for Gettysburg National Military Park.
Officials also are aware of plans for other rallies that have been announced on social media but have not obtained permits, and there are unconfirmed reports that anarchists plan to burn Confederate flags during the anniversary of the battle.
Lawhon said the park is working with the U.S. Park Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, and local law enforcement to keep order during the weekend.
“Our goal is to ensure that public safety and visitor safety is number one and that park resources are preserved,” she said.
Besides the two permitted protests, Civil War reenactors from the Maryland Sons of Confederate Veterans also received a permit for a “site specific” march starting at 10 a.m. from the North Carolina Memorial to the Veterans Memorial, where they will hold a ceremony, Lawhon said. Another popular private reenactment festival is also scheduled about two miles from the park, she said.
Reports that the anti-fascist group Antifa plans to burn Confederate flags and desecrate graves have prompted calls on social media for other groups to gather in Gettysburg to counter those protesters.
The anniversary of the battle, which raged from July 1 to July 3, 1863, comes at a time when there is a growing movement to remove Confederate symbols from public spaces.
“There just seems to be a focus on that issue, when there has not been in the past,” Lawhon said.
There are no plans to change any of the 1,300 monuments on the park grounds, she said.
In St. Louis, a controversial Confederate monument in a city park is set to be removed and placed in storage until it a permanent location can be found in a Civil War museum, battlefield, or cemetery.
In New Orleans, four confederate statues — Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, of President Jefferson Davis, and one dedicated to those who opposed Reconstruction — were removed from public viewing.
In Orlando, a statue depicting “Johnny Reb” will be relocated from Lake Eola Park to a section of a local cemetery dedicated to Confederate veterans.