ASHEBORO, N.C. – It was supposed to be a vigil to honor those injured and killed in Charlottesville last weekend, but the Confederate monument that loomed above the crowd in downtown Asheboro quickly became the topic of conversation Friday evening.
Organizers of the vigil, the Randolph county NAACP and Democratic Party, said while the location was intentional, they didn't want the monument to take the focus away from Heather Heyer and the two Virginia state police officers who lost their lives last weekend.
"Heather deserves her place in history and we're here to honor her," NAACP President Donald Matthews said. "There are no ulterior motives."
Some citizens said they hoped that was the case, but they showed up to make sure that no one caused any harm to the Confederate monument in front of the historic courthouse.
"That's all we're doing, is making sure he don't come down, that's my ancestors," Tad Bristol said.
Bristol said for he and the others that showed up to stand guard under the statue, it's all about history. He and his friend, Bob Bender, said they are completely against the KKK, Nazis and white supremacists.
"It has nothing to do with race," Bender said. "There's only one race and that's the American race."
During the vigil, organizers and supporters sang, prayed, and spoke about Charlottesville. They also gave their opinion about Confederate monuments, and some said they need to come down.
Bender and others shouted in disagreement, but Asheboro police quickly took action and stood in a line between the two sides. The situation de-escalated and the vigil ended peacefully.
Bender said he hopes people with differing opinions on Confederate monuments will start conversations with each other, rather than violence.
"Bring some sweet tea and let's sit down and talk," Bender said.
The Asheboro police issued this statement, which read:
“The Randolph County NAACP, Randolph County Democratic Party and Indivisible 6th Congressional District held a peace 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.”