“Friends of Forrest” block off area around Confederate memorial; student equality group moves protest to historic bridge

A group of white Selma, Ala., residents lined the perimeter of a Confederate soldier’s memorial with “do not cross” tape Sunday, after a Selma-based youth group planned to hold a prayer in protest of the memorial in Old Live Oak Cemetery.

The group of residents, who call themselves Friends of Forrest, said they blocked off the cemetery grounds, which holds the memorial of Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, to “protect our property” and for “scheduled maintenance,” according to President of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Chapter 53, Pat Godwin.

Students Unite, a Selma-based organization that advocates for equality and social justice using non-violence, planned the peaceful protest saying Forrest was Grand Dragon of the  Ku Klux Klan.

Pat Godwin, President of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Chapter 53, said a local black woman who organizes events to promote equality is "a race hustler." Photo by Raina Beutel
Pat Godwin, President of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Chapter 53, said a local black woman who organizes events to promote equality is “a race hustler.” Photo by Raina Beutel

“I have no proof he was in the Ku Klux Klan but I have high regard for his military genius,” Godwin said of Forrest. Historians often identify Forrest as one of the founders of the KKK.

Months ago, the city of Selma sold one acre of land in the public cemetery to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which included Forrest’s memorial grounds.

Students Unite caught wind of the Friends of Forrest at the cemetery Sunday morning and decided to march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge instead, where foot soldiers marched for voting rights 50 years ago.

Members of the NAACP Alabama State Chapter, based in Montgomery, Ala., asked the Friends of Forrest questions about their Confederate heritage.

“I just wanted to get their side of the story,” NAACP Alabama Chapter Vice President Sean Freeman said.

Paul Lewis a reporter for the London-based newspaper, The Guardian, asked Todd Kiscaden, another Friends of Forrest member, whether the Selma to Montgomery march was his history. Kiscaden answered “No.” Then Lewis asked, “Aren’t you an American?”

Kiscaden’s response: “I’m a Tenneseean.”

Meanwhile, Selma residents and visitors a few streets over were gearing up for another day of celebration of the march from Selma to Montgomery. Kiscaden said he was not attending the jubilee this weekend.

“It’s not my history,” Kiscaden said. “I’m over here with my history.”

— Breane Lyga

 

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