Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.
Acting on a tip passed along from Domestic Security Intelligence Analysts, the Madison Police Department (MPD) stood watch all day and night Friday, Aug. 18, guarding Four Freedoms Park and specifically the Confederate monument located in the park in downtown Madison. According to MPD Chief Reggie Alexander, several north Florida communities received alerts about potential vandalism at Confederate monuments. Other affected communities included Jefferson County, Woodville, Tallahassee, Suwannee County and Lake City in north Florida. Alexander was informed Thursday, Aug. 17 at approximately 8:10 p.m. that the anarchist group known as “Anonymous” had instructed followers to “take down all Confederate monuments at all costs.” The threat went as far as to specifically mention the monument in Four Freedoms Park. According to the alert, the action was to take place on Friday, Aug. 18.
Because of the specificity of the threat and because it instructed people to remove monuments “at all costs,” Alexander decided to take action. Alexander called a meeting with city officials, including City Manager Tim Bennett. It was decided to have law enforcement present at the park on a round-the-clock basis. “Officer safety was first, so we called in extra units,” said Alexander. The Madison County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) also offered assistance, as did the Madison Fire Rescue. “We had a plan... Our goal was to be proactive in order to protect property and to keep the peace.”
Across the southern United States, memorials and statues of various Confederate leaders and Confederate memorials in general have come under fire. In Charlottesville, Va. riots ensued between groups wanting to protect monuments and those wishing to remove them. In Durham, N.C., a Confederate monument was destroyed by protesters. In other communities such as New Orleans, Confederate memorials have been removed. “We don't want those [unlawful] incidents here... Regardless of how a person feels about those monuments, we are here to keep the peace,” said Alexander.
Officers were on site at Four Freedoms Park through noon on Saturday, Aug. 19. They are still on alert, although the alert is not as high. Alexander was also quick to point out that those threatening the park were not local people, but outsiders.
Alexander expressed his gratitude for those people, many of whom had differing thoughts on the Confederate monument issue, who took time to bring officers a glass of water and were supportive of the officers.
The debate on what to do with Confederate monuments will go on. As one woman told Chief Alexander, “You know, that is a part of history. It should be left alone. If anyone still feels that way now [as 150 years ago], there's something wrong with them.”