Police are preparing for a possible violent clash this weekend as dueling parades will honor Confederate generals and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans group will march Saturday in Lexington, and an anti-racism group will parade two days later on the same street to promote peace and equality, reported The Roanoke Times.
Few conflicts were reported last year at similar events, but police plan are preparing for the worst this year as tensions remain high following a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville left a woman dead in August.
“Ever since Charlottesville, people are sketchy about gatherings like this, and we certainly took that in consideration when planning for the events,” said Lt. Michael Frost, of Lexington police.
The Confederate group is celebrating Lee-Jackson Day, which honors Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who are both buried in Lexington.
“We believe they were great military heroes and men of great character that people should take note of and even emulate,” said Brandon Dorsey, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
They have donned gray Confederate uniforms and marched down Main Street to celebrate the generals for 15 years.
The parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Day started last year in response to an increase in racist incidents reported since President Donald Trump announced his candidacy.
The group Community Anti-Racism Effort, or CARE, reserved the Confederate group’s usual Saturday date for its own parade, and Sons of Confederate Veterans had to march the following day.
Lexington allows only one parade per day, and permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis — and CARE refused the Confederate group’s request to switch dates.
The Virginia Flaggers group waved Confederate banners during the CARE parade in protest, but both parades remained peaceful — and organizers expect the same this year.
“There’s ample room over the weekend for everyone to coexist peacefully,” Dorsey said. “There’s no reason to have a conflict.”
The city’s police will collaborate with the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police to ensure public safety at both events.