Counter-protest held for Lee-Jackson ceremony, but no Confederate groups show up

A group of about 50 protesters, some affiliated with Quaker organizations and some with the Baltimore Bloc, stood near the base of the Lee and Jackson Monument in Wyman Park, ready to protest a ceremony held by Confederate legacy groups to honor the same generals depicted in the statue.

About a dozen people stood with signs across the street from the park as part of a silent vigil Quaker groups have held annually since 2013. Signs noted Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first celebrated as a federal holiday in 1986, and how commemorations for Lee and Jackson in Wyman Park began the very next year.

The rest of the people were closer to the generals on horseback, claiming the space before anyone else could.

Several protesters confirmed that a couple showed up around 10:30 a.m. to lay a wreath at the site. Protesters formed a human wall near the statue and continually knocked the wreath over after the man and woman placed it. A dialogue took place, but then the couple decided to leave.

Video played for City Paper showed that the man tried to swing the wreath at a protester filming the man as he walked back to his car.

"I should have smashed your fucking face in, asshole," the man said into the camera.

But the large group of people affiliated with the Sons of Confederate Veterans or United Daughters of the Confederacy, who have in years past come to the monument dressed in reproduction Confederate uniforms to sing songs and say prayers for Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, did not show up, as was expected.

"I really anticipated that they would come, even though they didn't have anything on their website," said Ann Kehinde, a member of Stony Run Friends who has lived across from the monument since 1994 and said the Confederate groups typically show up on the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Confederate groups have said they are about honoring heritage, but Kehinde recalled how a recent ceremony was used to bash President Obama and political correctness.

"Really they are rewriting history to say slavery had nothing to do with [the Civil War] when slavery had everything to do with it," she said.

Noted activist Duane "Shorty" Davis brought one of his protest art toilets and put it down on of the steps leading to the statue. At 11:30 a.m., when it seemed that no one from the Confederate groups would show up, he and a Bloc activist called over everyone for a group picture with the toilet.

"This is Baltimore's version of the 'Do The Right Thing,'" Davis said as the pictures were taken.

The group began to chant. "Black lives matter!" "This is what democracy looks like!"

Activists began passing out paper pictures of Lee and Jackson.

"You can rip 'em up and toss 'em in the toilet, a'ight? That's symbolic, symbolism, artistic expression, the artistic form of protest, a'ight?" said Davis. "This is what we feel about this!"

The shredded papers in the toilet bowl were then set on fire.

This violent imagery did not sit well with the Quakers, who shied away from participating or standing nearby to have their pictures taken as this was going on.

Even so, the groups continued to wait in the event some of the Confederate organizations appeared. Kehinde collected email addresses and said she would try to alert people if the groups tried to hold the Lee-Jackson ceremony at a different time.

Nate Croll contributed to this report.

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