ASHEBORO, NC -- What started as a peaceful prayer vigil turned into a heated debate in Asheboro.
Tempers flared as a group of counter protesters interrupted a prayer vigil hosted by the NAACP on Friday night.
Police officers in riot gear had to separate the two groups.
The event was organized by the NAACP and the Randolph County Democratic Party to honor the victims of the violent protests in Charlottesville.
The event started with hundreds of people singing songs and saying prayers.
But when the conversation shifted to the topic of Confederate monuments, the mood shifted.
The two groups started arguing with one another back and forth under the Confederate monument in front of the steps of the old Randolph County Courthouse.
The NAACP wants to see the statue taken down.
“That statue has no place in our culture today,” said Donald Matthews, President of the Randolph County NAACP.
But a group of people who call themselves “Proud Americans,” some wearing Confederate gear, say they won't let that happen.
“It's a monument for all of them. That's all it is, a headstone,” said Tad Bristow. “Nobody's going to touch this statue.”
Two groups standing right across from each other, but when it comes to race relations and the history of the civil war, they couldn't be further apart.
“Why would you want to hold a peaceful vigil and still protest trying to take it out,” said Bristow. “It's two-sided. It's two faced. It ain't right.”
“There is just no place for that,” said Matthews. “We can not do those things and then honor them for doing the things they did. They basically tore this country apart.”
The vigil ended peacefully, with the hope of both groups finding a better understanding of each other.
“I am asking anybody at any given time that is willing to sit down and have an honest conversation and talk about the differences,” Matthews said as the crowd dispersed.
The NAACP says they do not condone anyone trying to tear down a statue on their own.
Matthews says the would like see the Confederate monument in downtown Asheboro taken down, but they want it done the “right way.”
They plan to ask county commissioners to consider steps for removing it legally.
Meanwhile, a small group of “Proud Americans” say they plan to stand guard at the Confederate monument to prevent anyone from trying to tear it down.
The Asheboro Police Department released the following statement:
The Randolph County NAACP, Randolph County Democratic Party and Indivisible 6th Congressional District held a peaceful prayer vigil in support of the victims in Charlottesville, Va., in front of the 1909 Historic Courthouse located at 145 Worth Street Asheboro at 1800 hours. The event was monitored by the Asheboro Police Department and the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office. From a law enforcement viewpoint the event was peaceful and no arrest were made.
© 2017 WFMY-TV