A procession of people carrying Confederate flags could be considered an unusual sight for downtown Mount Airy, but that’s exactly what occurred Saturday afternoon.
The first-ever March of the Confederacy — organized by a Dobson group known as Southern Cross — took place along Main Street, stretching from Wells Fargo to the city war memorial.
About 15 people actively took part in the march, held in support of citizens’ rights in general, carrying both Confederate and United States flags. They were led by a Mount Airy Police Department patrol car, with city officers also posted at strategic locations in the central business district as the small group of marchers slowly passed through.
However, the police presence seemed unneeded during the orderly procession as onlookers respectfully lined sidewalks on both sides of North Main Street — some watching curiously while others took pictures.
Here and there, those viewing the event were seen saluting the Southern Cross members as they passed, and also among the spectators were people holding small Confederate flags of their own or wearing Rebel caps. No heckling was detected.
Those lined up along the street seemed a mixture of normal Saturday afternoon Mayberry tourists who just happened to be downtown at the time, along with others who knew of the march and took up positions early to await its start.
Chuck Masoula of Wilmington was among the unsuspecting tourist category, who said the event “just happened upon us” as he and wife Kay were paying a visit to Mount Airy.
“A free country, man,” was Masoula’s reaction to seeing a pro-Confederate march as he stood in front of the Mount Airy Post Office. “If other groups can do it, why not?”
Albert Marcinkevicius, a Mount Airy resident who watched the march, also had a positive reaction to the event.
“I’m not into politically correct (BS),” said Marcinkevicius, who was wearing a Confederate bandana.
Freedoms under attack
Once at the city war memorial — which contains the names of 259 Surry County soldiers who died fighting for the Confederacy in the War Between the States — Southern Cross President Joe Davis expressed appreciation for the many military members who’ve made such sacrifices in the name of liberty.
As he talked, about six Mount Airy police officers stationed themselves around the perimeter of the area, which Davis said he also appreciated in terms of protecting the group’s right to assemble.
Davis was quick to note that while support for the Confederate flag was part of the march — and the right to display the banner that has been targeted in recent months — the event was aimed at raising awareness of how freedoms in general gradually are being lost.
“They’re taking it all away,” Davis said. “Our rights are under attack.”
An old-fashioned hearse was towed by an SUV during the march to symbolize how rights have died or are dying.
These include not only freedom of expression, but gun ownership and religion, said Davis, who added that students are now being discouraged from displaying both the American and Confederate flags at school, where God also is absent.
As a result, young people are becoming disillusioned and turning to crime, the Southern Cross leader suggested.
If some groups get their way and the Confederate flag is prohibited altogether, “they’ll be banning the American flag tomorrow,” Davis continued.
“What kind of country are we living in?” he said. “Where is it going to end?”
Davis’ solution is for citizens to begin joining together and standing up for their rights in peaceful shows of support, which invariably will make an impression on those in power.
“Stand up and be counted,” he urged those within hearing distance, which will mean “the government has got to notice us” under a squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease situation.
“And once they notice us, there’s got to be change.”
However, the Southern Cross president — who concluded his remarks with a prayer — said time is of the essence.
“If we don’t stand up now, we are not going to have nothing to stand up for,” Davis said, predicting that life in America will come to resemble that of Hitler’s Germany or a communist country otherwise.
He did draw a parallel between citizens needing to stand up for themselves today and the Confederate States of America, pointing out that this is exactly what it did in the 1860s. Southern soldiers were protecting their homeland more than anything, Davis reminded, and stood up for what was right.
“We didn’t attack the North — they attacked us,” he said. “We defended ourselves.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.