Controversy surrounding Confederate group prompts Garner to cancel Christmas parade
Posted November 27, 2019 11:29 a.m. EST
Updated November 27, 2019 6:30 p.m. EST
Garner, N.C. — The Town of Garner's annual Christmas parade will be canceled this year because organizers are worried that participation from one group, Sons of the Confederate Veterans, will spark protests.
Officials told WRAL News that the Sons of the Confederate Veterans march in the parade, which travels down Main Street, every year.
Protest groups on social media have recently posted their concern with the group's participation. As a result, town officials canceled the event over concerns that it could be targeted or spark protests between clashing groups.
"The Town is especially concerned about the possibility of bystanders—including children—being caught in the middle of disruptive actions," a press release announced. "The Town’s foremost responsibility is always to ensure public safety."
The move angered some residents.
"This is a joke. This is a joke," Bill Berry said. "This is absolutely a joke."
Town Manager Rodney Dickerson said officials could not risk a clash during the parade.
"There could be groups to show up to the parade and cause disruption," he said. "And we were really concerned about the safety of the participants."
Said interim Police Chief Joey Binns: "We're concerned about the safety of our citizens. That's our utmost concern. We're going to make sure it's our first priority."
The mission of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, according to its website, is to preserve the history and legacy of Confederate soldiers so that future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause."
In a statement to WRAL News, the group lashed out at the town.
“We are displeased with the Town of Garner's decision to cancel the annual Christmas parade based on alleged threats of violence from anti-American groups. The local SCV Camp has participated in the Christmas parade for many years to the delight of children and parents enjoying great support and fellowship from the community. We are saddened that we as well as many other groups have been denied the enjoyment of the parade because of the very real threat of violence from extremists bent on silencing our Constitutional rights and we hate that the Community has to suffer because of those people.”
The parade was originally scheduled to be held on Saturday, Dec. 7 before it was nixed. According to officials, the town's annual tree-lighting festival, known as Light Up Main, will proceed as planned on Friday, Dec. 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Main Street in downtown Garner.
"Somebody is bowing down to a possible threat, and once you start that, you've lost all control of everything," said Berry, who strongly opposed the decision to cancel the parade.
Main Street business owner Kentrell Perry says he hopes the situation will lead to a larger discussion.
"I'm glad when things like this happen, we're able to bring up the tough conversations because those are the kind of conversations that need to be had," he said.