The right to assemble: During Confederate battle flag rally remember the sacrifices

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 18, 2015

A pro-Confederate battle flag rally is set to happen today at Vicksburg National Military Park, and we ask all participants and spectators to be respectful of our community and the hallowed ground where Americans fought and died.

Too often across this great nation, rallies, protests and other constitutionally protected events turn into shouting matches or, worse, acts of violent destruction of property.

While we are not expecting such disturbances, it seems that all around the country people have forgotten to be civil.

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Americans have essentially left Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s description of what free speech ought to be:  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Instead it devolves into “I’m right, and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong and evil!” That makes for great television ratings or inflammatory social media posts, but it accomplishes absolutely nothing.

While being respectful of each other, we also encourage attendees of all opinions at the rally to be respectful of Vicksburg National Military Park and it’s visitors. The park was established and marked by veterans of both sides of this country’s greatest political struggle and it would be a shame for anyone to disrespect the men who fought there.

Some people on social media — including some who say they plan to attend the event — have been critical of the park, saying it only presents the Union side of the story. We disagree, and our reporters who spend time in the park and with its rangers know the park service gives an accurate depiction of soldiers on both sides of America’s bloodiest war.

“These men were American soldiers and this battlefield was where American blood was spilled,” VNMP ranger Will Wilson said during a recent living history program. “These places were established by the veterans themselves who wanted us to have them to come and reflect on their sacrifices.”

Everyone should take a moment to stop and reflect on the suffering soldiers endured at Vicksburg. They, after all, are the reason the park exists.