Nearly 300 protestors and counter-protestors turned out to Pensacola’s Lee Square Saturday as part of a rally organized in support of the city’s most prominent Confederate memorial.
The rally comes after Mayor Ashton Hayward last week called for the monument’s removal. The 50-foot monument — dedicated to Confederate president Jefferson Davis, Pensacolian Confederate veterans Stephen R. Mallory and Edward Aylesworth Perry, and “the Uncrowned Heroes of the Southern Confederacy” — was erected in 1891, two years after what was then called Florida Square was renamed for Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
The demonstration began around 9 a.m. with approximately 250 to 300 people in attendance, according to the Pensacola Police Department.
Dozens of police officers were present to monitor the event, with additional officers and SWAT units standing by. No violence broke out during the two-and-a-half-hour rally, and officers made only one arrest. 24-year-old Caleb Burris was charged with battery after he knocked a megaphone out of another person’s hand.
“We understand people on each side have strong opinions, but today’s rally proved that our citizens can work through their differences,” said Mayor Ashton Hayward. “I also want to thank our police officers for their professionalism.”
Rally organizer Thomas Olsen of Milton said he organized the rally “as a means of protecting the history behind the monument.”
“I’m hoping to send a message that we will no longer sit on the sideline while we continue to watch the left destroy the history that many of us share and hold dear to our hearts,” Olsen said.
While some have suggested moving the monument to a museum, to Veterans Memorial Park, or to a cemetery, Olsen says he hopes to keep the monument where it is, “no moving and no removal.”
“There are many in the local community that share the same belief, I’ve had many people contact me in support with intent on showing up themselves,” Olsen said.