FRANKLIN, Ohio -- Businesses were advised to close early Saturday after demonstrators gathered where a plaque honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee once stood.
Police were patrolling the area near Dixie Highway and Hamilton-Middletown Road, WCPO media partner the Journal-News reports.
Demonstrators started to gather in the spot where the plaque once stood at about 1 p.m. Saturday.
Xavier Dickerson, of Middletown, said he's upset the plaque was removed because it was “part of our heritage.”
“You can’t just take something out of here that’s been here for a while and expect people not to be mad about it,” Dickerson said. “It’s a slap in the face that they would come here in the middle of the night rip it out and not say anything about it.”
Franklin officials removed the plaque earlier this week. It was erected in the 1920s.
City of Franklin officials said Wednesday that the monument was in a public right of way for Dixie Highway, and therefore is a hazard that must be removed.
Larry Wood helped his wife close PJ Food Mart at 2 p.m. Saturday, nine hours earlier than normal. Police told businesses to close early because "all the stuff going on," Wood said.
Someone stuck a sign in the ground where the plaque was at about 10:45 a.m. Thursday, the morning after it had been removed.
The sign read: "We do not negotiate with terrorist (sic). BLM is a terrorist organization."
— Jay Warren (@JayWarrenWCPO) August 17, 2017
Earlier that day, Franklin Township officials had said they would not remove the Confederate monument; however, they later said they learned that the monument is actually in the city, so it would not be theirs to remove. Franklin city officials also said they had been unaware of the monument until Wednesday.
The decision comes after violent clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Multiple white power groups gathered there last weekend to protest that city's decision to remove its Lee statue. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a driver rammed into a crowd of counter-demonstrators.
In Franklin, Wood said city and township officials should have allowed residents to vote on whether to remove it.
"We don't like when outsiders come into town and tell us what to do," Wood said. "Lord help us."
Kyle Butz, of Carlisle, said removing the plaque is a disservice to Confederate soldiers.
“All Confederate soldiers are considered by federal government as U.S. veterans. That’s what they’ll always be,” Butz said. “Removing that, you’re removing a plaque to a U.S. veteran.”
Butz also said he doesn’t believe Confederate monuments are offensive.
“It’s all about heritage. Not hate. It’s all about our history. Not hate. To me, there’s nothing racist about this flag, there’s nothing racist about this monument. There’s nothing wrong with it to me. It’s all about our history,” Butz said.
President Donald Trump agrees with some in the South who say the monuments speak to America’s history and heritage; but opponents of such symbols believe they glorify a shameful era of slavery.
Robert E. Lee V, an athletic director at The Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, and great-great-grandson of the Confederate general, said the family hates to see the statues be a source of division.
"If taking down the statues helps us not have days like Charlottesville, then we're all for it," Lee said. "Take ’em down tonight."
And a great-great-grandson of Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson told The Associated Press he believes a monument to his ancestor, as well as others in Virginia’s capital of Richmond, were constructed as symbols of white supremacy and should be taken down.
"They were constructed to be markers of white supremacy. They were constructed to make black people fearful," Jack Christian said. "I can only imagine what persons of color who have to walk and drive by those every morning think and feel."