Wave signs, cheer; show respect by trimming grass
By Magen Howard
Contact
August 3, 2005

Every few seconds, passing cars — with black and white drivers — honked in front of Forrest Park, and the people lining both sides of Union erupted in cheers.

"Save our parks!"

Members of Citizens to Save the Parks and Sons of the Confederate Veterans rallied at the park Tuesday during rush hour to oppose renaming the city’s Confederate-themed parks and show they could be good for Civil War tourism.

They brought not just their signs, bumper stickers and petitions — they brought their lawn mowers, too.

"We want to show the city leadership that we care about the parks," said Lee Millar, spokesman for Sons of the Confederate Veterans. "We want to keep the parks presentable and inviting."

Weed trimmers chewed high weeds, sending dust billowing into the air. Volunteers — ranging in age from 12 to 70 — mowed, raked and picked up trash in the 91-degree heat to prove the park, which honors Civil War Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, is worth showing off.

Others held signs high along Union. Relatively few drivers booed at the demonstration — most just drove on or honked approval.

"Parks are important to American history," said Chelsea Fennell, 13, of Collierville, whose ancestor fought for the Confederacy. "It needs to stay what it is."

Chelsea’s aunt Donna McCartney wore a T-shirt with a picture of the ancestor, Marcus J. Wright, who also was a Memphis sheriff, McCartney said.

They were at the rally to protect their heritage, as well as Forrest’s honor.

"This man and his wife have been buried here in this park for a hundred years," said McCartney, 56. "If people would read their history, really try to understand Gen. Forrest. …"

Amanda Richey of Paragould, Ark., about 20 miles north of Jonesboro, has done extensive research to do just that.

"This is my heritage, and I will not lay down and let somebody take it away," said Richey, 35, who wore a cap bearing Forrest’s photo. She got an e-mail about the rally about 3 p.m. and made it to the park by 5 with her 12-year-old son, Wilson.

"There’s no hate about this," she said. "It’s a lack of education."

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