by Dale Cox
Marianna – We all have our strong core beliefs. For years I have tried to do what I could to support the right of the public to know, to speak and to be heard.
First Amendment rights are very important to me.
I was stunned this week when I saw news from Jacksonville that the Ku Klux Klan had turned out to protest an appearance by H.K. Edgerton.
If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Edgerton, let me give you the basics. He is an African-American who supports the Confederate battle flag and leaving Confederate monuments in place. He works hard and travels widely in support of his beliefs. His prominence has grown over time and he is currently engaged in a symbolic walk across Florida to oppose efforts to take down Confederate memorials.
Earlier this week, this Confederate battle flag waving black man was confronted by the Ku Klux Klan. To his surprise, protesters that had turned out to oppose his flag suddenly came to his assistance and surrounded him. They asserted that he had a right to fly his flag if he wished, taking a stand for free speech in the face of Klan members.
It was an odd moment. As I thought about it, I realized that whether we agree with Mr. Edgerton or not, we all have an obligation to make sure that American citizens are not harassed, intimidated or otherwise prevented from expressing their views.
I am a supporter of preserving all history, without regard to race, culture or results. I have written books that focused on American Indians, the War Between the States, the Seminole Wars and other topics. I have a new one coming this summer that gives attention to the free African-American colony that existed at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River in 1814-1816.
Those who know me well know that I believe that there is something in history in which each of us can take pride, regardless of our race or culture. If Mr. Edgerton takes pride in Southern culture and the often ignored African-Americans who served in the Confederate armed forces, then I am fine with that and wish him well.
When I heard that he had been opposed by the Ku Klux Klan in Jacksonville, I was stunned and angered. I have long known that such hate groups were active in major Florida cities, especially Tampa. Journalists in those cities often like to point fingers at the small towns of our state when the real hate groups of Florida are active in their own backyards.
So, I decided to walk with H.K. Edgerton.
I met him at the Battle of Marianna monument in downtown Marianna today and we walked the two long blocks west to the Russ House Commons. People of all colors honked their horns, waved, snapped pictures or in some cases just looked confused. Everyone we met was kind and courteous. We spoke about the Battle of Marianna and the history of Jackson County.
I was proud of the way our community responded to Mr. Edgerton’s appearance. Marianna and Jackson County showed true hospitality in welcoming him. We had no disruptions from the Ku Klux Klan or anyone else, although the Marianna Police Department was nearby and ready in case of trouble.
There is much that is controversial about Mr. Edgerton’s views and some like what he has to say while others strongly oppose his statements. That is fine with me. Debate and discussion is healthy.
What is not healthy is when a hate group like the Ku Klux Klan tries to shut down someone’s right to speak through intimidation. The people of this area took a stand against the Ku Klux Klan today.
Thank you one and all.