GRAHAM — A prayer for the dead opened the Confederate Memorial Day Service hosted by a Southern rights organization, Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County (ACTBAC).
Last year, the organization was listed as a neo-Confederate hate group by the nongovernmental organization, Southern Poverty Law Center.
The event took place May 10 at the memorial in front of Alamance County’s District Judge building, 7 miles from Elon University’s campus. The memorial was erected to honor those from Alamance County that have died fighting in U.S. conflicts.
Gary Williamson, the founder and president of ACTBAC was the main speaker at the event. His nearly hourlong address covered a range of topics including the Confederacy’s history, slavery, southern pride, northern aggression, the fight against communism and God.
“We love and respect the men on that wall and we live by the ways of the South,” Williamson said. “There are no prouder people than the Southern people. If there were, we wouldn’t be here 156 years later flying this flag.”
But not everyone who came to the service was a fan of the flag.
Jen Fry, a former Elon women’s assistant volleyball coach, was driving home when she slammed on the brakes after noticing the dozens of battle flags flying in front of the memorial.
Postponing her dinner, Fry pulled over and immediately walked straight to the growing crowd of Confederate supporters.
“I saw flags flying and went to listen to what they had to say out of curiosity,” Fry said.
In an attempt to better understand the positions of those holding the battle flag, Fry engaged several attendees in conversation about what that flag meant to her as a black woman.
The conversations Fry had with Confederate supporters revolved around the different interpretations of the battle flag’s meaning, as well as the significance of the Confederate common soldier statue standing in front of Alamance Historic Courthouse.
“They have this fear that we are trying to take something,” Fry said. “No one is trying to take anything, we are trying to work together.”
Fry spent nearly an hour listening to and recording Williamson’s speech. His views on maintaining the legacy and history of the Confederacy remained firm.
“Southern folk like their traditions, they like to preserve what they grew up with,” Williamson said. “We want to preserve something for our children, without crime and drugs and constant conflict.”
Williamson claims ACTBAC’s fight to preserve “Southern tradition” will continue, no matter the cost.
“There are a lot of things going on right now in our Union that a lot of people don’t agree with, it has to do with our legacy,” Williamson said. “It has to do with people who just want to completely destroy it and at some point it is going to become a fight and we are fighting now.”
Williamson stated his fight for “Southern pride” beliefs had nothing to do with gender, race or political belief.
“Our battle is to preserve who we are. It has to do with our rights and our history,” Williamson said.