By ALEX GAYHART & JOHN MESSEDER – Times Staff Writer
In a scene reminiscent of July 1863, descendants of Confederate veterans completed a two-day march into Gettysburg Thursday.
The march from Chambersburg culminated on the steps of Schmucker Memorial Hall at Gettysburg College, with a 3,700-name roll call of Confederate soldiers killed in Gettysburg.
“I have never, ever in my life seen such an egregious act of hatred (as is) taking place here in Gettysburg,” said H.K. Edgerton, director of the Southern Legal Resource Center in North Carolina, and a former NAACP chapter president.
Edgerton, clad in a woolen gray Confederate uniform, was one of about 12 southerners who briefly stationed themselves at Robert E. Lee Headquarters on Chambersburg Road, Thursday morning.
They marched to Gettysburg to protest an art exhibit depicting a “lynching” of the battle flag of the Confederacy.
The lynching, “The proper way to hang a Confederate Flag,” is part of a larger art exhibit entitled “The Recoloration Proclamation: The Gettysburg Redress.”
The exhibit is the work of Florida artist John Sims and is scheduled to open at Gettysburg College tonight at 6 p.m., and will run until Sept. 26.
In a voice that brings to mind the profound speeches of 1960s civil rights leaders, Edgerton spoke of his rage toward Sims, Gettysburg College, and even the Borough of Gettysburg, for allowing the exhibit to go on.
“I am still hoping and praying in my heart … that Mr. Sims will change his mind … and extend the hand of peace.”
“The proper way to hang a Confederate flag” component of Sims’ larger exhibit was originally scheduled to be a performance piece that would include a lynching of the Southern symbol outside of the college’s art gallery.
After college and borough officials opted to move the performance indoors due to safety concerns, Sims had seemingly decided to cancel the “lynching.”
But the college announced Wednesday that the artist shipped to them a modified version of the Confederate flag lynching.
“There’s a point of sanity and insanity,” Edgerton said, as members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Heritage Preservation Association stood gathered around him with the Stars and Bars in hand. “Mr. Sims and Gettysburg College have reached a point of insanity.
Edgerton and the rest of his comrades maintained that the Confederate flag is not a symbol of hatred, as suggested by Sims’ art, but rather of Southern pride.
“We watched our history be twisted and turned … we’ve seen our monuments defaced … we’ve seen our leaders demonized,” said Edgerton. “Our symbols are not about hate.”
“We’re just basically providing an education to those distorting the message of the Confederate flag,” said Kirk Lyons, who was gathered with the marchers. “This is an opportunity … to let this community remember again the sacrifices of everybody here on both sides in 1863 … to remember the 4,000 men in gray who fought here and never got to go home.”
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