The president of Augusta’s NAACP chapter called for peace at Thursday’s rally to remove the city’s downtown Confederate monument.
Beulah Nash-Teachy would not disclose specifics about the churches and groups who plan to be part of the rally but said she expects nonviolence from all who attend the 6 p.m. event at the monument in the 700 block of Broad Street. The rally will begin with a prayer and two keynote speakers, who have requested to remain anonymous. The speakers will discuss the petition to have the downtown monument removed and attendees will be invited to view the monument and discuss the writings on the north-side face of the monument, Nash-Teachey said.
“We are a rainbow of individuals working together to enhance the environment in the Richmond County area,” she said. “I personally do not believe that there’s going to be disturbance. I believe that people will come out and I believe that there are many who will be interested and there’s some who may not agree.”
At least one other group seeking a permit to rally was denied, Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree confirmed Wednesday. Roundtree said the group didn’t apply for a permit in time.
The group was the Nationalist Liberty Union, according to a spokesman who called The Augusta Chronicle on Wednesday afternoon to say the organization would seek legal action on being denied a permit. On its Facebook page, the white nationalist group states its mission is to “unify America as a Euro-centric Christian nation, and for that reason we oppose the forces that seek to destroy her. A nation with Christ as King is the only answer to maintaining the ordered liberty that God intended for America.”
Roundtree said he couldn’t confirm the identity of the group or whether it wanted to oppose removing the 76-foot tall monument, which was dedicated in 1877 and has statues of four Confederate generals and a common soldier, often recognized as local soldier Berry Benson, at the top. Both sides of the 700 block on Broad Street will be closed from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and workers Wednesday installed new lights around the monument and temporary barriers at nearby parking bays for the event. The sheriff said Monday that deputies would be on hand to ensure safety and monitor crowds.
Nash-Teachey, who is a retired Army veteran, spoke at a “Stand Against Hate” community forum and prayer meeting Wednesday afternoon and invited those who attend the rally to be open-minded and inclusive to the cause.
“The Civil War is history,” she said. “We cannot do anything about it but we can move forward in presenting a history of all people being welcomed and embrace the culture we have in the CSRA.”
During a conference last week, the state NAACP called for the removal of all Confederate symbols from state and local government properties. Nash-Teachey said she “was not wanting to do it with the state,” but “was hoping to do it at another time.”
“But since it presented itself we decided to move forward,” she said Wednesday.
Teachey said she is aware that there are some who may oppose what the group is seeking.
“And that’s okay,” she said. “We are now in a situation where we can try to do better.”
The Rev. Larry Fryer, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Observance, spoke against the call to remove Confederate symbols during Wednesday’s forum, stating that the movements are “more reactive than proactive.”
“We have to take a stand for things before they happen rather than wait until it all comes out,” he said. “You can tear down as many monuments, you can pull down as many flags but if the heart and the mind is not changed you have the very same thing.”