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Pro-confederate rally marches through Oxford non-violently

After a week of preparation and caution, the rally consisting of two pro-confederate groups marched through Oxford on Saturday afternoon.

The Confederate-901 and Hiwaymen neo-Confederate groups gathered at the Lafayette County Courthouse in the early afternoon and marched though downtown to the Univeristy of Mississippi’s campus.

K-Rack Johnson, one of the the rally organizers with Confederate-901, said the rally came to Oxford because of how UM has been slowly removing parts of the university that had Confederate backgrounds.

“We’ve lost so much at the university already,” Johnson said. “The mascot, the fight song, the contextualization.”

”We’re here to try and see if we can make it stop.”

The  rally started at the Confederate monument infront of the court house and ended in front of the second Confederate Monument on UM’s campus near The Grove.

There were about 100 attendees expected at the rally between the two groups, and only about 20 were present when the rally began at 1 p.m.

By the time the march toward campus began just after 2 p.m., there were about 80 attendees for the march.

Both groups marched south down Lamar Avenue, and then west on University Avenue.

All three members of the LOU law enforcement – Oxford Police, University Police and the Lafayette County Sheriff – all signed an agreement earlier this week that allowed each body to share officers in an emergency situation.

While that wasn’t needed, UM intern Chancellor Larry Sparks thanked all three bodies of law enforcement in a statement.

”we are grateful for everything you do to protect our community,” Sparks said in the statement. “We are thankful for our strong partnership worth the LOU community.”

The rally circled around the square’s monument to begin, where counter protesters held up signs and chanted at the rally. Pro-Confederate attendees began their own chants back, and sang “Dixie.” The counter protesters sang “This Little Light of Mine” in response.

When the Confederate-901 and Hiwaymen march turned onto University Avenue, bystanders began heckling the march.

“They can have their opinion all they want to,” Johnson said.

The marchers had to walk through a metal detector in order to get the monument on UM’s campus. When they were on campus, they were met by more counter protesters.

When the march got to campus, both groups were led in front of the campus monument and in an area that was sectioned off by metal gates.

About 100 counter protesters, blocked off by metal gates about 50 yards away from the Confederate-901 and Hiwaymen.

The groups and the counter protestors traded chants and shouts at each other. The Confederate-901 and Hiwaymen were only permitted to converge on campus until 3:30 p.m.

The permit allowing the groups to converge at the square was from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., but as soon as they left the permit expired and they weren’t allowed to re-converge.

Both statues are Confederate monuments built oringially to honor those from Lafayette County who died fighting in the Civil War were constructed on the University of Mississippi campus in 1906, and in front of the Lafayette County Courthouse in 1907.

Johnson said the monuments are dedicated to Confederate soldiers that were killed in action, but were never able to get a proper burial. Through the monuments, families can get closure

“That’s what those monuments are for,” Johnson said. “So those families can have somewhere to go.”

However, to the counter protestors, the monuments are symbols of oppression, and belong in a museum.

Kate Gluckman, Executive Director of the Sunflower County Freedom Program, said monuments in Oxford should be immortalized elsewhere to remember the history, but they shouldn’t be celebrated.

Gluckman, who lives in Cleveland, also said many of her students from the Sunflower County Freedom Program attend Ole Miss after graduating from her program.

“Our students were afraid to be on campus today because of the presence of that group,” Gluckman said. “I felt it’s my duty, and my responsibility and my privilege to come here and say that this is not what we represent here in Mississippi “

Counter protesters also noted the Confederate-901 and Hiwaymen, who are based in Tennessee and Arkansas, respectively, were not from Mississippi and don’t reflect the state’s views.

”They are not Mississippians,” Gluckman said. “They do not represent where our state is going.”

During the march to campus, just before the Ole Miss and Georgia men’s basketball game, five Rebel men’s basketball players also knelt during the playing of the national anthem.

After the game, Ole Miss basketball coach Kermit Davis said he didn’t know the players were going to kneel before the game.

According to Oxford Police, the Oxford Board of Aldermen is planning on releasing a joint statement concerning Saturday’s march.