The city of Hot Springs positioned large sanitation containers around Confederate Square Friday in preparation for today's planned demonstration on Arlington Lawn in support of preserving monuments to Confederate history.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy, which owns the land where the Hot Springs Confederate Monument stands, on Thursday voluntarily took down a Confederate battle flag from the pole near the intersection of Market and Central, Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe said Friday morning (see related story).
Today's demonstration is being held by the Confederate Square Group, which is not affiliated with the UDC. Its organizer, James Brock, of Hot Springs, told the newspaper on Thursday that the demonstration will focus on the preservation of the monuments, and will not support neo-Nazism, white supremacy or white nationalism.
Violence broke out last Saturday at a Charlottesville, Va., rally to protest the removal of a Gen. Robert E. Lee monument, when white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters. One person died when a car plowed into a crowd, and the governor declared a state of emergency.
The city decided to take additional steps to ensure public safety "in light of recent events that have transpired across the nation," City Manager David Frasher said in a memo sent Friday to the Hot Springs Board of Directors.
Frasher outlined different measures that have been taken, including the barriers around Confederate Square, both to protect private property and to "ensure public safety."
The Hot Springs Solid Waste Department positioned the roll-off sanitation containers to prevent vehicles from parking near the memorial, according to city officials.
"Public safety is our foremost priority. Today, I am confident that working together with our partners, Hot Springs will facilitate a peaceful assembly of American citizens. No measure of violence will be tolerated," Frasher said.
"As Arkansas' No. 1 tourism destination, the city of Hot Springs is filled with welcoming people who will not let the events of (today) change the heart of our community. While we welcome all to our city, all are expected to conduct themselves peaceably," he said.
Hot Springs police Cpl. Kirk Zaner issued a statement Friday morning to reiterate what city officials told the newspaper on Thursday, that the safety of Hot Springs residents and their property remains the top priority today.
"The Hot Springs Police Department in conjunction with the National Park Service, Garland County Sheriff's Department, Arkansas State Police and other stakeholders in our community are in the process of developing a comprehensive operational plan that will address a myriad of contingencies and possibilities. Proper planning and communication are two vital components in ensuring the safety of every citizen along with their property," Zaner said.
"For operational security, I will not divulge specific operations or logistics at this time; however, we will be devoting additional assets and resources to ensure a safe event. I would like to reiterate City Manager David Frasher's sentiments that we are doing everything possible to ensure that what occurred in Charlottesville does not happen here in our city. With this said, we will not tolerate violence or the destruction of property in any shape or form. Those individuals that intend to promote or engage in violent or destructive acts will face immediate criminal charges," he said.
The group was given a permit to demonstrate on Arlington Lawn from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, and plans to hold its event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
It is the fourth demonstration of its kind to be held on Arlington Lawn in 2017. Hot Springs National Park Superintendent Josie Fernandez said Friday she misspoke Thursday by saying it was the third demonstration on Arlington Lawn this year. Fernandez said the earlier demonstrations were held in May, June and July.
The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock said Friday it is hosting a Multi-Faith Prayer Service at 9 a.m. today at St. Mary of the Springs Catholic Church, 100 Central Ave.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor will speak and church leaders in Hot Springs have also been invited to participate, the church said in a news release.
"This prayer service is open to people of all faiths who would like to pray for unity and peace in our communities and an end to violence, bigotry, hatred and racism. It is a response to the rally scheduled to take place in Hot Springs National Park later the same day by a group that supports Confederate monuments, and near a Confederate monument that was also the site where two black people were lynched in 1913 and 1922," the release said.
"Bishop Taylor invites all people of good will seeking an end to the evil of racism in our country to come together in solidarity for prayer and a peaceful witness of God's love for all people."
Earlier Friday, the Democratic Party of Garland County said it has canceled its "No Home for Hate" event planned for today at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
Hayden Shamel, chairman of the Democratic Party of Garland County, said in a news release the decision was made after consulting with the police department, members of the Hot Springs clergy, and city and county officials.
"We will not contribute in any way, shape, or form to individuals wishing to create or provoke a violent situation in the community we all call home. We all have the responsibility to ensure the security and safety of the people of Hot Springs. We must work together to ensure that our community remains a vibrant, inclusive, and beautiful place in which to live and work," Shamel said.
"We want to make our position absolutely clear: Hate has no home in Hot Springs. The individuals who plan to rally downtown on Arlington Lawn do NOT represent the vast majority of our residents who are absolutely opposed to hate in any of its ugly forms. Inclusivity, tolerance, hope, and unity are not partisan values; they are American values, and our friends on both sides of the political aisle are in agreement on this. We are diametrically opposed to the promotion of white supremacy, Nazi ideology, and hate of any kind. Our decision to cancel this weekend's event is one made out of concern for the safety of our people and under the advice of the police department and emergency responders who are committed to maintaining law and order in these difficult times," Shamel said.
"We encourage our members and all of our residents to stay safely in their homes this weekend and to continue to spread a message of hope, peace, and love to all people. It is incumbent upon all of us to speak out and to send a clear message that we will not allow hate to win. The future of democracy as we know it depends upon it."
Paul M. Lynch, president of the Downtown Association of Hot Springs, emailed a statement to members of the merchants organization on Friday urging them to "remain vigilant" this weekend.
"While the group that received the permit has held rallies on the lawn in the past without serious incident, Chief Stachey and Assistant Chief Chapmond informed me this afternoon that, in light of last weekend's events in Charlottesville, Va., our local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are preparing for a full range of contingencies, including the possibility of confrontations between rally supporters and expected opposition groups," Lynch said.
Police Chief Jason Stachey "made it clear to me that there will be a substantial law enforcement presence in downtown this weekend and that there will be a zero-tolerance policy with respect to any physical violence whatsoever. Individuals engaging in physical violence or other offenses will be arrested and charged accordingly. The Arkansas State Police will be providing significant personnel and tactical resources to support our local police and park rangers, so that public safety is maintained," Lynch said.
"I write not to create unnecessary fear, but to make sure you have an opportunity to prepare yourself, your employees, and your businesses for the uncertainties that this event presents. I urge you to remain vigilant and alert this weekend and not to hesitate to call 911 or alert a police officer if you witness any unlawful behavior or other threat to any person or property."Local on 08/19/2017
Print Headline: 'No measure of violence will be tolerated' Officials take steps to protect citizens, private property