HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - On Saturday, a rally is being held by a group called "Confederate Square" and people are asking us what exactly is being planned.
The gathering is planned in Hot Springs at the Arlington Lawn and Park on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The group has met three times before in recent months but in the aftermath of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, more questions seem to be surfacing.
We feel it's important to point out that this group again, has met before without incident and without much, if any media attention. We chose to do this story because of the questions coming in to us in hopes of laying out the facts.
In order to get the details surrounding this story we reached out to the man organizing the rally, Hot Springs police and the Hot Springs National Park, who issued the rally permit.
"Forty-eight hours ago the only thing that was going on in Hot Springs, Arkansas was a picnic with some people to sit in the Arlington Lawn and talk about what their great grandparents did," said James Bowden.
Both James Bowden and Randy Slattery say the Confederate Square group is about education.
“We've even had cookouts, talk about our southern heritage. Nothing about hate, nothing about the clan," said Randy Slattery.
They said the group has always been rather small, fewer than 20 people, once 70 according to Josie Fernandez with the Hot Springs National Park who issued the group their permit.
"In this case it’s the first amendment right of free speech and as much as we can, we will accommodate all groups regardless of their message," said Fernandez.
She told us there has never been an issue with the group before.
"They consist of flying American flags as well as Confederate flags and when it’s time to go, they peacefully leave," said Fernandez.
Corporal Kirk Zaner with the Hot Springs Police Department claimed he's seen more attention to this gathering on social media.
“A lot of the information being put on social media is people assuming and not based on facts so some of it is being blown out of proportion," he said.
Hot Springs police are working with multiple law enforcement agencies to oversee the rally, warning the public that anyone who acts violent will immediately be arrested.
“If your intention is to destroy property or act violent towards other people, don’t come," said Zaner.
The City of Hot Springs used dumpsters to create a barrier around the Confederate monument located in Landmark Plaza to protect the private property that they say could be affected.
On Thursday, the Daughters of Confederacy took down the confederate flag following an online petition.
Several groups who had planned to counter protest have decided not to show up. The Democratic Party of Garland County canceled their "No Home for Hate" event saying they "don’t want to provoke a violent situation."
Indivisible Little Rock Central Arkansas cancelled their counter protest saying, "there are ways to oppose hatred without putting our members in harm’s way."
Bishop Anthony Taylor with the Catholic Diocese will host a prayer service Saturday morning in Hot Springs for unity and peace. It’s being held at St. Mary of the Springs Catholic Church at 9 a.m.
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