GETTYSBURG, PA (WHTM) – The national debate over the removal of Confederate statues from cities has reached the intermediate state, but this situation is slightly different.
This concerns Gettysburg, where states have erected statues depicting their role in the civil war.
Recently, Adams County's Democratic Commissioner Marty Qually called for the Confederate statues to be removed from Facebook after a joke flag was burned on Independence Day weekend reportedly organized by Antifa.
This flag burning never happened, but the threat spread online and resulted in hundreds of armed demonstrators still showing up – some in racist clothing – to protect these monuments.
In this now-deleted Facebook post, the groups who showed up to defend the statues were referred to as "armed racist idiots".
"Among them were clear white supremacists, Klan members who came to protect our monuments," Qually said. “When I see 100 people at a memorial and see a flag of the Ku Klux Klan, I see people with swastikas on their necks that everyone can see and Confederate flags, I assume that this group is a racist group. ”
It's a new battle brewing in a place where there's a fair share of clashing ideologies.
"If you don't tell the whole story, or only half of the story, what do you do?" asked the State Representative Dan Moul, whose district includes Gettysburg. "If you don't remind people of our history, you have to repeat it and this is a place we don't want to be – we have to learn from our history."
Qually argues that the statues attract hate groups, claiming the county's tourism industry cannot survive both a pandemic and "idiot endemic".
"Our $ 850 million tourism industry can't handle this group that comes here every weekend," Qually said. "If these people keep coming back to protect these statues, we have to think," Are we taking them off, are we moving them, are we adding extra signage? "There are many opportunities."
Moul, on the other hand, disagrees and says it is not right to remove statues from what many consider an open-air museum.
"Are you really going to erase history, do you really want to take the kids to Gettysburg and tell people from all over the world," Well, the north fought, but we don't know who they fought or what they fought for? "Moul posed." I think it's crazy. "
He said he would never bow to groups like Antifa and consider them hate groups in their own right.
"It's not the decision of some runaway thugs who just want to wreak havoc because they feel like they know what's best for us," said Moul. "The way (the statues) either have to stay or be removed from the city center is by the people chosen to represent the people of this city center – not a group of thugs!"
Since deleting the Facebook post due to serious setbacks and nasty comments, Qually said he has reconsidered his beliefs and said on Thursday that the removal should only be a last resort.
"Unless we can educate the public enough that people are not coming here for protection (statues) from eight hours away, we need to consider their removal as an option," Qually said. "I don't know that there is enough education in the world to understand that it harms our local economy."
Qually said he fully supports law enforcement and believes they had the flag-burning proposed last weekend under control and did not need the help of private armed people. Even so, he would like the parking service to work out a better plan to cope with future similar demonstrators.
"I think we need to discuss with valet where we have protests, how we maintain courtesy (and) reasonableness," Qually said. "There is only one flag that should be hoisted for this country and that is the American flag … period!"
"Nobody is going to desecrate our monuments, whether they are northern or southern monuments – nobody is desecrating our homeland, this is our homeland," said Moul.
Both men seem to agree that Gettysburg's Confederate statues are different from those purposely placed in town squares across the country to intimidate black citizens.