Armed far-right groups descended on Gettysburg on Independence Day to counter-protest a rumoured antifascist flag burning demonstration that never took place.
The groups were said to have seen an event advertised on Facebook which called on antifascist supporters to meet at the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on 4 July to “protest police violence against unarmed black civilians”.
According to The Hanover Evening Sun, the Facebook post said supporters would burn the American, Confederate and ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flags.
“Let’s get together and burn flags in protest of thugs and animals in blue,” wrote one person on a Facebook page called Left Behind USA last month.
The post added that there would be antifascist face paint and “free small flags to children to safely throw into the fire”, reported The Washington Post.
Facebook removed the page on 25 June, at which point far-right members had shared the page and event, which they attributed to Antifa.
Right-wing supporters then planned a counter-protest to protect Civil War monuments and the American flag at Gettysburg on 4 July, reported The Post, with some saying they would be armed.
“If you plan on coming, I would plan on coming full battle-rattle … to be fully, 100 per cent prepared to defend yourself and whoever you come with,” said Delaware militia member Macky Marker on YouTube.
Armed militia were seen among those who turned up on Saturday, to see no Antifa supporters at the National Cemetery.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a hoax or not,” Christopher Blakeman, who travelled to the Gettysburg site from West Virginia on Saturday, told The Post. “They made a threat, and if we don’t make our voices heard, it’ll make it seem like it’s OK,” he added.
In a statement to The Hanover Evening Sun, Antifa’s Central Pennsylvania chapter denied those claims, and said “It’s a right wing hoax”.
“We are not even remotely involved. Let them give each other Covid. We will be home with our families,” said the group.
According to The Post, which tried to contact the person behind The Left Behind USA Facebook page, the user’s name could not be traced.
US president Donald Trump last month named Antifa and other left-wing activists as those who had perpetrated violence amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
The Battle of Gettysburg, in July 1863, turned out to be the turning point in the Civil War as Union forces defeated the Confederates. Four months later President Abraham Lincoln visited the site to give his famous Gettysburg Address, in which he promised that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".
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