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Park owner plans to unveil Confederate monument

Plans to unveil a monument honoring unknown Confederate soldiers from Crensahw County on Sunday have drawn criticism from the state NAACP.

The monument will be added to Confederate Veterans Memorial Park located on U.S. Highway 331 between Luverne and Brantley. While the park is private property, the owner plans to open the ceremony to the public.

The property is owned and operated by David Coggins, who is commander of the Ben Bricken Camp 396 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The park is home to monuments honoring soldiers who served in the Confederacy and flags of the Confederacy with granite displays detailing each flag’s meaning and adoption.

“This monument has been in the process of construction for a year,” Coggins said, adding that the monument and park are funded through private sources and donations. “The park is about heritage and education – not about negativity.”

The Alabama State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recently issued a statement opposing the scheduled unveiling.

“The United States of America has many symbols, such as the American Flag, that unify and identify all Americans as a “United People.”  Confederate symbols and monuments are offensive to far too many citizens, especially Blacks/People of African Descent.  The historical meaning, intent, and outright disrespect noted in these Confederate symbols and monuments re-ignite the negative history and memories associated with them.  Thus, it is in this current ‘State of Human Affairs and Race Relations’ that the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP is opposed to the upcoming scheduled and announced unveiling of another Monument to Confederate Soldiers.”

A full copy of the statement is included as a letter to the editor on page 5.

Coggins said he took ownership of the property in 2015.  “The park started out with the erection of one flag pole in the center of the property in 2015.  The goal of the park, and that of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, is to preserve our history and educate the public about our ancestors,” he said.

Coggins said he plans a somber service and a time to honor those who served.

“People in attendance will also have an opportunity to mention a name of an ancestor of any service of the Confederacy following the speakers.  It’s going to be a very moving ceremony and will conclude with the unveiling of the monument,” Coggins said.

Patricia Mokolo, communications chair for the Alabama NAACP said that the association does not plan to attend Sunday’s event.  “We elected not to attend because we’re mindful of people’s safety.”

Mokolo said the association will be attending a conference over the weekend and plans to hold a press conference off-site on Saturday are being finalized.

Coggins said security would be on hand due to the close proximately to a main state highway.

Crenshaw County Sheriff Mickey Powell said Highway 331 is extremely busy this time of year, and deputies will be on hand to ensure traffic flow isn’t impacted.  “It’s an active time of the day in general, so we’re concerned about the flow of traffic.  That’s the right of way, and we’re going to make sure everyone is able to travel safely, without incident,” Powell said.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, and will conclude at 4 p.m., beginning with the posting of colors, followed by prayer and the welcoming of guests.

“The property is private property,” Coggins said. “Anyone is welcome to attend the ceremony and visit the park as long as they respect the property.  This is a family event and we will not condone violence or disrespect to property or outbursts.”