GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Despite rampant rumors of violence, protests and counter-protests planned this weekend at Gettysburg that prompted heightened security, there were few flare-ups by midday Saturday.
Reports surfaced that a Confederate supporter, whose identity has not been disclosed, bought a revolver to Gettysburg National Park and accidentally shot himself in the leg. The incident took place around 1 pm.
Earlier Saturday, a handful of pro-Confederate supporters had stationed themselves at various monuments at Gettysburg.
Patrick Werner, wearing a white USA t-shirt, arrived at the site holding a sign that read, “The soldiers who fought here did not wear masks.”
Werner told Fox News he came to Gettysburg because he had heard rumors of anti-Confederate protesters with their faces covered coming to the historic grounds for the 154th anniversary of the pivotal Civil War battle, though none were around as of mid-morning.
“We heard they were going to deface the monuments,” said James Bibb, wearing a t-shirt with the rebel flag that read, “Heritage not hate.” “I have six known ancestors that fought in this war. I’m here to defend the monuments.”
Reports of possible disruptions and even violence have the National Park Service acting with an abundance of caution.
Officials at the park have been bracing for protests this weekend. As of Friday night, four groups had applied for permits to demonstrate in the battlefield, Katie Lawhon, a spokeswoman for Gettysburg National Military Park, said.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Real 3% Risen applied and received special use permits for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in a special section north of Gen. George G. Meades headquarters, Lawhon told Fox News. The permits say each group could bring between 50-500 people.
The groups came to Gettysburg amid rumors that a fifth group the alt-left Antifa was planning to burn Confederate flags and desecrate graves at Gettysburg.
Seth Harrold, a member of 3% Risen, told Fox he was there to “take a stand” and “protect the battlefield.”
Harrold said he personally heard Antifa would be there to burn Confederate symbols.
“We’re not standing for that,” he said.
Antifa has strongly pushed back on those unsubstantiated claims and said they had no plans to be at Gettysburg but instead are focusing their efforts on a massive anti-Trump rally in Philadelphia.
In an added twist, the Central PA Antifa claims the rumors of Gettysburg protests generated from a fake Facebook page called Harrisburg Antifa which they told The Evening Sun is run by alt-right trolls attempting to discredit Antifa, create confusion and attempt to stir violence.
No Antifa group has requested or been issued a permit, Lawhon said.
Regardless, park security isnt taking any chances following a heated face-off last year.
The 2016 event was initially billed as a rally but later morphed into a shouting match between 200 Confederate flag supporters and a separate group of 100 people opposed to it. The groups were divided by steel barriers.
This year, the United States Park Police are on hand as are NPS personnel from other parks to help with security.
If individuals or groups decide to act unlawfully, plans have been put in place to efficiently address them while allowing other members of the public to enjoy the democratic process, Lawhon said.
Locals told Fox News Friday night they saw a major jump in security, not only around the park but also at nearby restaurants and hotels.
At the Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg, a long line of park police cars were lined up in the parking lot as officers chatted and took pictures with Civil War reenactors.
The recent push to remove statues of several Confederate generals across the South has triggered massive protests, on both sides of the issue, in numerous states.
Most recently, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu faced brutal backlash and was forced to have heavy police presence in place when the nighttime removals began.
The campaign to scale back Confederate symbols began with South Carolinas decision to pull the Stars and Bars from the state capitol.
At least 60 public Confederate symbols have been removed since the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, S.C., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.