NEWTON, N.C. –The Confederate flag sparked violence at a local event to honor soldiers from the past.
Police say a man was arrested in Newton, after he targeted Confederate re-enactors with pepper spray. They also found a loaded gun on him.
All of it comes just days after many people were injured in Charlottesville and a woman was killed.
Two people from the group were pepper sprayed. They had a booth set up next to a Confederate statue. Newton police tell WCNC they were prepared for the event.
At times, the march to remember past wars became a reminder of the present day conflict.
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“With the recent stuff that went on in Charlottesville it felt like an important time to say, ‘There’s a better way’,” says Jesse Smith, who was peacefully protesting the Confederate re-enactors.
The group was flying Confederate flags and their booth was set up next to a statue of a Confederate soldier. They had no comment for WCNC. Smith, however, had a direct response to their actions.
“Just to realize what the Civil War was about, slavery,” says Smith. “ Racism is America’s first and original sin and we still haven’t gotten past that.”
By and large the two sides disagreed peacefully. The Sons of Confederate Veterans was among several different groups marching in the annual event.
“We feel like we were well prepared,” says Major Tim Hayes with the Newton Police Department.
However, at one point police say a man targeted the Confederate re-enactors. 56 year-old Karl Smith of Morganton, North Carolina allegedly pepper-sprayed them each time they fired off their weapon.
Officers later found a loaded gun on him as well.
“One arrest, gentlemen with pepper spray, so far disorderly conduct charge,” Major Hayes.
Smith says his fight to move beyond racism continues. He hopes lessons from the past can help with that.
“There’s a way for us to take steps towards that in 2017, the same way so many of our forefathers and sisters have taken steps to bring us where we are today,” says Smith.
Police say two people were treated for pepper spray exposure. Smith is facing two counts of assault.