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.
Groups planning to counter protests by anarchists at Gettysburg National Military Park during this weekend’s 154th anniversary of the Civil War battle might find themselves turning out for nothing.
A total of four groups have now applied to exercise their First Amendment rights at the battlefield, said Katie Lawhon, a park spokeswoman.
Two of the groups that are ready to rally may find themselves with time on their hands if a fifth group – which hasn’t yet applied for a permit – doesn’t show up.
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, Lawhorn stated.
According to posts on social media, those groups are planning to disrupt reported but unconfirmed plans by the anarchist anti-fascist group Antifa to burn Confederate flags and desecrate graves at Gettysburg.
But whether the anarchists will show is far from certain. At least two other similar protests in other cities did not materialize.
In May, a similar situation played out at the Marietta National Cemetery when a Facebook group called “Trolling Trumpsters” reported that Antifa protesters planned to burn Confederate flags and desecrate graves at that Civil War era site in Georgia. Dozens of Southern sympathizers, including members of the Ku Klux Klan, turned out to protest. Antifa, however was a no-show, the NBC affiliate in Atlanta reported.
On June 10 in Houston, hundreds turned out with Confederate flags to prevent Antifa from tearing down a monument to Sam Houston, a former governor of Texas and a general in the Texas Revolution, Salon reported.
Five days after the Marietta event, a post went up May 18 on the Harrisburg Antifa Facebook page saying, “We’re gonna be at Gettysburg no doubt.” It did not say what day the group would go to Gettysburg.
On June 23, the Central PA Antifa group posted on Facebook it never intended to go Gettysburg to burn Confederate flags or desecrate graves.
“We want to make it very clear that this is most likely a fake event organized and promoted the same way the fake Houston rally was,” the group posted. “The only event promotion has been for a counter rally of Trump supporters, biker dudes, and Civil War reenactors. Smells fishy.”
No Antifa group has applied for a permit at Gettysburg, said Lawhon.
Civil War reenactors from the Maryland Sons of Confederate Veterans also received a permit for a “site specific” march starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday in a special section north of Meade’s Headquarters.
Scott Hancock, a professor of history at Gettysburg College, has received the forth permit and will be in the area by Meade’s Headquarters.
He will carry a sign with a message that conveys a more accurate historical representation of what the Confederate flag represents – slavery and legacy of white supremacy it left behind, he said.
“My interest is in having a voice that tells the truth,” Hancock said.
Lawhon said the National Park service is prepared. Park police, Pennsylvania State Police, and local law enforcement are all working together to make sure that people are able to exercise their first amendment rights and weekend is peaceful, she said.
“We are ready to roll out the red carpet and people are still going to have a good time at the battle anniversary learning about what happened here,” she said.