J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

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Book Tour – The Speaking Stone

The Speaking Stone by Ratnadip Acharya

~Book Tour~

11th to 17th November

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About the Book:

The Speaking Stone 3D Cover copy

Mumbai, December 2016: 

A young man found an ancient-looking piece of stone with strange images and Sanskrit inscriptions. A quest to know the origin of the stone brought him to the distant part of the country. 

Chandannagar, December 2016: 

A young vivacious historian woman read an old book on a century-old secret story about a little known part of the country. Her curiosity got the better of her as the book disappeared mysteriously before she could complete it. She reached a sleepy quaint state of the country to satiate her curiosity. 

Eventually they both met and their search began from the city museum to a far-flung rock mountain which revealed a century-old story of a seductive danseuse, her enigmatic lover, a string of her admirers, a painter with a photographic memory, a bird that could speak in many voices, a benevolent king and a gruesome conspiracy. And the most important clue to decode the final secret was with the missing part of The Speaking Stone. But in the process of unearthing old secrets their lives were also in danger… 

Book Links:

Amazon * Goodreads

Read an Excerpt:

Chapter 1

December 2016, Mumbai

“Sir, we are about to close,” a courteous but curt voice materialized from near his shoulder. These words, however, had barely any effect on him as he just groaned sleepily, without budging even an inch.

The middle-aged man standing behind him hesitated for a moment before placing his fingers on his shoulder and tapping on it.

“Sir, it is well past one-thirty. We must close now at any cost. You know those Colaba police, na?” the man in uniform urged him. After all, he could not afford to speak in an authoritative manner with someone who frequented their pub, always drank enough to make the pub owner richer by a few thousand, behaved well with all the butlers unlike many other young men his age, and, above all, was always generous to give tips to the workers in the pub. He was quite a favourite with the staff of this famous pub, Voodoo, a little behind Hotel Taj Palace in Colaba. They looked up to him for another reason, too. It was his demonic capacity to drink and remain composed and collected even after that. Never before had it happened that he placed his head on the table, pillowed on his locked arms and slept blissfully. Whenever he visited Voodoo on weekends he was accompanied by one or two friends and the attendants in Voodoo knew that one of those friends, who didn’t drink, was always at the wheel while they returned from the pub. But tonight he was all alone and completely drunk. They were not sure as to how he would ride home.

“Sir,” the uniformed man called him again, tapping on his shoulder, a bit impatiently now. This time as he leaned to touch the young man’s shoulder the hanging end of his tie touched his ear and earlobe. What the earnest request and tapping of the attendant couldn’t do, the hanging end of the tie seemed to have done it effortlessly. Probably it sent a tickling sensation down his spine as he raised his head with a sleepy smile.

“Sorry,” said he, looking up.

“Sir, we are well past our closing time,” repeated the man. He passed a searching glance about and as he found the pub empty except for him a sheepish smile came over his lips.

“I am sorry,” said he, trying to get to his feet. A pleasant sweet smell of Black Label whisky issued from his mouth.

“May I use the toilet once before leaving?” he asked with his usual politeness and then headed to the Men’s with an unsteady gait.

He returned from the toilet after a few minutes, wiping his face with a handkerchief.

“Are you sure, sir, you can manage to go all by yourself?” asked the concerned attendant.

“I will,” replied he and staggered to the entrance of Voodoo.

The attendant watched his six-foot-tall frame leaving the pub and hoped he would reach home safely. He consulted the watch. It was a quarter to two.

Outside the pub the young man stood for a few moments, trying to gather his thoughts. He looked around then. The street in front of him was deserted. At the corner of the street, two stray dogs were sleeping, coiling themselves against each other to feel warm in the cold winter night. A thin wisp of smoke was spiralling up from a small heap of ashes. He knew the durwans from the nearby buildings might have lit the fire with the foliage and old discarded cardboard to warm themselves up. He did a mental calculation and tottered ahead at a slow pace. All that accompanied him was his hesitant footfall and a faithful shadow. He walked past Kashmir Emporium, Rustic Rajasthan, and an antique shop whose targeted customers were usually foreign tourists, and arrived behind the Taj Continental where scores of four-wheelers were parked. As he looked at the cars, parked in an astonishingly disciplined fashion to make the most of the space, a thought struck him. Most of the cars were white. He had no difficulty in finding his car. He opened the rear door of the car and plopped himself down on the seat. It was not long before he stretched at full length, occupying the entire back seat. 

Soon he fell asleep when the crashing waves of the Arabian Sea, in front of Hotel Taj Continental, played a lullaby for him. It was the first night he slept in the car.

About the Author:
Ratnadip Acharya copy

Ratnadip Acharya is the author of two successful novels, Life is Always Aimless… Unless you love it and Paradise Lost & Regained. He is a columnist for the Speaking Tree in The Times of India. He contributed many write-ups in different collections of Chicken Soup for the Soul. He lives in Mumbai with his wife, Sophia and son, Akash.

Contact the Author:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram

 

Release Day Blitz

The Sinners by Sourabh Mukherjee

~ Release Day Blitz ~

12th November

The Sinners Banners copy

About the Book:

The Sinners Cover copy

Vikram Oberoi is found dead in his penthouse. A few hours ago, his involvement in a sex scandal in NexGen Technologies made headlines across the world.

Who is behind the sinister conspiracy that destroyed Vikram Oberoi, the philandering India Head of NexGen? Rivals within and outside the firm? One of his many jilted lovers or the miffed wife? A mysterious conspirator laying out honey traps to sabotage his plans? Or, is it the ghost of a sinful past that continues to haunt the Oberois?

The Sinners is a fast-paced thriller with a shocking twist that unravels against the backdrop of corporate warfare, illicit relationships and ruthless seduction games.

Book Links:

Amazon * Goodreads

Read an Excerpt:

Agastya picked up the call from a private number after the third ring, taking his eyes off the monitor in front of him.

“Is this Agastya Bakshi?”

“Yes… who’s this?”

“Agastya, my apologies for calling you late. I assure you this won’t take too long. But, we need to talk in private. Where are you right now?” The male voice at the other end of the line sounded authoritative. Agastya could not recall having heard the voice earlier.

Agastya looked around the near-empty office and said, “I am at work, but we can talk. Not too many people around at this time of the night.” His curiosity, by this time, was at its peak. 

It was past eleven. It was the third time that week that Agastya had to work through the night. Hired a couple of years back, his work as an engineer in the Network and Systems Division of NexGen kept him rooted in front of computer screens through his days and very often, his nights. Agastya did not have much of a social life. A clumsy desk littered with pizza crumbs, empty cartons and soda cans, and a paunch growing at an alarming rate – that was what his life had been reduced to. But, he did not complain. Agastya loved his job.

“Great! Then let’s talk business. I’m sorry I cannot disclose my name. I belong to a private investigation agency that’s currently looking into the dealings of the company you are working for. There are reports of certain financial irregularities in the business.”

Agastya sat up straight in his chair.

“Okay! But, what – what do you want from me?” Agastya asked tentatively. “I work in Network and Systems. I don’t think you have the right number!”

“Agastya, I know who I am talking to,” there was an almost imperceptible hint of annoyance in the voice of the man at the other end of the line. He went on, “We need access to the e-mail accounts of some of the top guys in your company to check their correspondences. And I’ve been told that you are the right man for the job.”

Agastya took a sip of the cola that had already gone flat.

“Why – why me? You can speak to my Manager in the morning. He -“

The voice at the other end of the line did not let him finish.

“Agastya, this is a covert operation and we are a private agency. We cannot turn up at your office with an order to gain access to these accounts. Also, right now, we’re not sure how many of the big guys are involved and in what ways. For all you know, your boss – the Systems Manager you are referring to – might as well be a party! Let’s not forget that, he has access to all records of transactions. We do not want anyone getting alert and tampering with the data we are looking for. We cannot risk exposure. It’ll take us some time to complete the basic investigation. And I’d really appreciate your cooperation while we are at it. Once we have enough evidence at our disposal, we will make this official.”

Agastya thought for a few minutes. The whole thing could be a hoax, for all it’s worth!

“Look… how do I trust you?”

“I knew you’re going to ask, Agastya. We’ll be completely transparent with you. One of my agents will get in touch with you. You’ll be working with her. I want you to hand over the details to her in person. This is for reasons of safety. And also, to make sure that you put faces to names. We want to win your trust and make sure that you are comfortable working with us because, as I said, this investigation isn’t going to get over in a day. We’ll need to work together for a while.”

“I – I’ll need to think this through. What’s in it for me?”

“We’ll most certainly compensate for your time and your cooperation. And I can assure you that, you will have no reason to complain about the money. Don’t worry about that,” the voice sounded reassuring. Agastya did a quick mental calculation of the remaining EMIs for his new car. Almost at the same time, the full front-page advertisement of the upcoming apartment complex in South Mumbai flashed before his eyes.

The voice continued, “So I gather we’re good to go here, right?”

Agastya mumbled an uncertain “Well…”

The voice did not seem to care.

“Thanks for your co-operation, Agastya. Ruchika will get in touch with you shortly. Have a good rest of the night at work.” The man hung up.

Agastya looked disbelievingly at his phone. Agastya wondered if he should call someone and discuss. The next moment, he decided against it. The man did sound like he meant business. And, in any case, Agastya was the one in charge. He was the one who had access to the data the agency was asking for. He was willing to give it a shot if the money was good. If, at any point in time, he had any reason to doubt the authenticity of the agency, he could always step back. Maybe even report the guy to appropriate authorities. He could always make an honest confession.

He put the phone down on his desk and went back to monitoring the data backup jobs. In a couple of minutes, his phone buzzed 

“Hey, this is Ruchika” – said the Whatsapp message.

About the Author:

Sourabh Mukherjee

Sourabh is the author of two psychological thriller novels The Colours of Passion: Unravelling Dark Secrets behind the Limelight (Readomania) and  In the Shadows of Death: A Detective Agni Mitra Thriller (Srishti Publishers and Distributors); Romance Shorts, a collection of dark-romance short stories; a 2-part series Beyond 22 Yards (Srishti Publishers and Distributors) on stories of Love and Crime from the world of cricket and a 7-part series of short stories titled It’s All About Love (Srishti Publishers and Distributors). The titles in the series are The Gift, The Cookery Show and a Love Story, A Special Day, Masks, An Autumn Turmoil, The Hunt, The Death Wish.

A keen observer of human behaviour and cultural diversities, Sourabh loves travelling and has travelled widely across five continents. An avid reader of fiction, Sourabh is equally passionate about photography, movies and music.

Connect with the Author:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Blog

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Giveaway:

A Paperback Copy of The Sinners by Sourabh Mukherjee.

Open till 25th November, 2019

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What the Dead Can Teach Us

Elmwood 2

This may sound a bit morbid, but I love exploring old cemeteries. In my opinion, the older, the better. One of my favorites is Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. A person can learn a lot about that city’s history, just from walking around. There is a section for Confederate soldiers, including some officers, another area filled with small pox victims from the epidemic in 1873, and a slave section, where most slaves didn’t even receive the honor of a headstone. The ornate, Victorian headstones and monuments are beautiful and sad. One that stands out to me is an empty swing, which is near the grave of a child.

Swing

Author Shelby Foote, who wrote volumes on the Civil War and was featured in Ken Burns’ documentary, is buried there. He was so enthralled with Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Forrest family that he requested to be buried near them. He got his wish.

http://www.elmwoodcemetery.org

New-Orleans-St-Louis-cemetery-no-1-tombs

Another fascinating place to visit the dead is in New Orleans. The graves in the cemeteries are all above ground because the sea level is so high. Many graves were washed into the sea before people placed the deceased in mausoleums.

Marie

One fascinating character buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans is none other than the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau. The crypt where she is buried is usually covered with trinkets, charms and Mardi Gras beads. This cemetery is believed to be the most haunted cemetery in the country.

celtic-crosses-in-an-old-irish-cemetery-mark-e-tisdale

Some of the oldest cemeteries are, of course, in Europe. I have seen several Irish graveyards, and I think they are profoundly beautiful. Filled with Celtic crosses, these old cemeteries are certainly filled with ghosts, too. I’d love to be able to hear some of their stories.

Irish Cemetery

Here in Colorado, there are many old cemeteries as well. Some consist of the graves of miners, who came here looking for fortune, but instead, found sickness and poverty. The Gold Camp Victorian Society dresses in period clothing and provides tours of the Mount Pisgan Cemetery near Cripple Creek. An interesting stop on the tour is the headstone of Fred E. Krueger. No, not the horror character, but a mere 15-year-old boy who died of mysterious causes in 1897.

Fred

https://gazette.com/premium/the-mysterious-headstone-of-fred-e-krueger-found-west-of/article_d76db5d6-ee9f-11e9-a5a1-572389059672.html

Many take it upon themselves to provide the upkeep of these national treasures. My husband’s SCV camp cleans up a small cemetery in Horn Lake, Mississippi every year. I think it’s crucial that we respect and revere these honored dead. They are an important part of this country’s history, and of our own history as well.

More Disrespect

I wanted to share this article, showing how disrespectful all the anti-Confederate sentiment has become. It’s nothing less than shameful, in my opinion, and I hope you agree. These are works of art erected to honor dead war vets. Reading more into them than that is just plain ludicrous.

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Judges for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments … in the latest effort to counter the University of Texas’ removal of several Confederate statues.

We reported back in 2017 when UT President Gregory L. Fenves authorized the removal of statues of Confederate figures – Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and John Reagan – along with Gov. James Stephen Hogg from the UT South Mall. The statues of Lee, Johnston and Reagan were placed in storage; Hogg was later relocated to another spot on campus.

Days after the statues’ removal, members of the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit against Fenves. The organization’s named plaintiffs, David McMahon and Steven Littlefield, argued that the removal of the statues was an illegal restriction of political speech and a breach of agreement with the estate of Maj. George Washington Littlefield, who donated the statues in 1921. The lawsuit argued the university agreed at that time the statues would remain as promotion of a “Southern understanding of the Civil War” on UT’s campus.

“In removing the statues, Pres. Fenves has breached the University’s long-standing promotion of American history from the Southern perspective that it promised to its generous donor, Maj. George Washington Littlefield,” the lawsuit said.

Western District U.S. Court Judge Lee Yeakel dismissed the case in late June 2018, stating that the Sons of Confederate Veterans lacked standing, but he did not comment on whether the plaintiffs had a valid argument under the First Amendment.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans appealed Yeakel’s decision to the 5th Circuit, where they presented oral arguments for why the removal was a violation of federal free speech laws. The case was consolidated with a similar lawsuit that originated in San Antonio where two residents and the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued city leaders for making plans to remove a Confederate monument in Travis Park.

Kirk Lyons, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in both cases, told the American-Statesman on Tuesday he was arguing for standing, which lower courts had denied, saying the Sons of Confederate Veterans couldn’t prove any injury from the statues’ removal. He said his clients do have standing because the removal of Confederate monuments injures their rights to free speech. The effort is part of what Lyons believes is a national agenda to dishonor Confederate history and quiet conservatives.

“If you took every offensive monument out of Europe, their tourist industry would collapse,” Lyons said. “These people are mentally unstable.”

After Tuesday’s oral arguments, Texas Attorney General and closet liberal RINO scalywag Ken Paxton who fast-tracked the removal of other Confederate monuments issued a statement saying the court should dismiss the suit.

(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Oct. 11, 2019 ed.)

The Plight of American History

racist

I have been posting a lot recently about the destruction of our national monuments. This disturbs me greatly, because I see it as a way to eradicate and change our history. The monuments pay homage to ancestors who fought in ancient wars, but nevertheless, they were war veterans, and the monuments should be treated with respect. If someone desecrated a war memorial to Korean War vets, I would be deeply upset, because my dad fought in that war with the Marines.

NBF

Same goes for Civil War vets. They were recognized as American vets long ago, and yet, today, because of the changing tide of political correctness, their monuments have been inappropriately deemed as racist. This is completely wrong and inaccurate, and still, the monuments keep coming down. Recently, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the Sons of Confederate Veterans could not appeal the decision for Memphis to take down three Confederate monuments. I find this shameful, especially since one of the monuments marked the graves of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife. General Forrest was a trendsetter in establishing interracial relations in Memphis, but this has all been washed over. I only wish correct history was taught in our schools.

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I also find it disturbing that the Confederate battle flag is forever linked with the KKK, and thus, is also deemed as racist. This is also completely inaccurate. If anything, the Stars and Stripes should be associated with racism. It was that flag that flew over slave ships, and the KKK also used it repeatedly. The Confederate battle flag, also known as the Southern Cross, is based on the Scottish St. Andrews Cross. Therefore, it has deep Christian roots, and has nothing to do with racism.

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Not to offend anyone, but I will continue to express my disdain and vigilance supporting the Confederate monuments and flags. People today don’t understand that the Confederacy didn’t consist of Southern slave holders. There were Rebels in the north and west, Southern sympathizers in the north, Slave holders in the north and west, and black slave holders as well. That is why I love writing about this time period. It was topsy-turvy, all convoluted, and a mixed bag of  new immigrants coming in, as well as Native American people being eradicated. Genocide was okay back then,  and political incorrectness was, too. I wish people, especially those with political clout, would keep that in mind when they decide to destroy our history. How can we remember our mistakes if all the remembrances are destroyed?

Artistic Plagiarism?

I’m really not sure what to make of this. Please share your views. Do you think this is okay, or is it an infringement on existing artwork? It is understandable how the artist is making a statement against a longstanding monument in Richmond, but is it really appropriate?

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ONLY IN NEW YORK
Perpetually crowded Times Square has a new statue for pedestrians to navigate – but it’s unlike any other.
Artist Kehinde Wiley unveiled his biggest work ever … a massive bronze statue of a young African American man in urban streetwear sitting astride a galloping horse.
Called “Rumors of War,” it flips the script on traditional statutes commemorating white generals. Wiley described his bold work as a call to arms for inclusivity.
He told The Associated Press afterward that he hoped young people would see it and “see a sense of radical possibility – this, too, is America.”
The project was born when Wiley saw Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s monument in Richmond, Virginia.
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The unveiling was bookended by performances from the marching band from Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, New Jersey and an unveiling speech by Confederate monument opponent and Richmond, Virginia Mayor Levar Stoney.
(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Oct. 4, 2019 ed.)

THE LAST BATTLE, WON BY WOMEN

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The following amusing incident was copied from a paper by the late Capt. John H. Martin, of Hawkinsville, Ga., in which he said: “The last guns of the Confederacy had been fired on the battle fields and the Confederate military organizations had disbanded, when the heartless despot in command of New Orleans issued an infamous order that prayers must be said in all the churches for Abraham Lincoln. Into St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which had only ladies attending services, strode one of the satrap’s subaltern officers with an imperious step and strut, handed the order to the minister, and, in a pompous, insulting manner, turned and ordered prayers for Lincoln. Like a flash of lightning, impelled by the same heroic impulse, every woman in the house, spontaneously and instantly, without a word, assailed the officer with hat pins, parasols and everything at their command. The cowardly cur beat a hasty retreat and reported to his superior officer that if any further orders for prayers for Lincoln were to be served on the women of New Orleans, another must be found who was fool enough to undertake the serving, for he had enough and had thrown up the job. This might be aptly termed the last battle of the Confederacy, and while the last fought by the men was not a success, the last one fought by the noble, grand, brave women of New Orleans in defense of honor and all that was true and pure and patriotic was a conspicuous success.” 

CONFEDERATE VETERAN—DECEMBER 1928 

Teresa Roane – BLACK CONFEDERATES AND OTHER MINORITIES IN THE WAR OF NORTHERN AGGRESSION

(Article Courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1462, Sons of Confederate Veterans, vol. 43, issue #10, October 2019)

The Number is Alarming

monument
According to the following article, 141 Confederate monuments have been removed or destroyed to date. I find this seriously alarming. Hiding monuments from public view or defacing them with inaccuracies won’t change our history, and neither will putting up plaques to try to explain away the climate as it was back when the monuments were erected. Even the president has declared that destroying Confederate monuments is a national tragedy.
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Writing on Wednesday for The National Interest, Jordan Brasher suggested that a national cemetery be erected where all of the nations removed Confederate monuments (141 in the last 3 years so far) can be placed. Literally, he has proposed a national Confederate Monument Cemetery.
The Washington Post then reported that in places where the State’s monument and heritage protection acts are working liberals are now taking to erecting signs of their own immediately next to Confederate memorials.
For example:
“This monument should no longer stand as a memorial to white brotherhood,” reads a sign erected this summer alongside a Confederate statue in Georgia.
“This monument … fostered a culture of segregation by implying that public spaces and public memory belonged to whites,” reads another.
Declares a third: “This ignores the segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans.”
“It’s happening in all sorts of places,” said Adam Domby, a history professor at the College of Charleston who is writing a book about Confederate monuments. “Still, it’s clearly in many cases being used as a stopgap because the laws prohibit removing them.”
The Atlanta History Center now maintains an online database tracking the fate of Confederate monuments.
(Article courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Sept. 27, 2019 ed.)

Historical Victory!

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Earlier today, I received an email from the American Battlefield Trust with wonderful news. Because of donations, 143 acres at the Plank Farm on the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania battlefield has been preserved.

According to the American Battlefield Trust,

“On all three days of the Battle of Gettysburg, and for many weeks after Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia made its retreat, this farm (owned by J. Edward Plank at the time of battle) served as one of the largest hospitals in all of Gettysburg. Soldiers on each side traversed these 143 acres, and more than 1,500 soldiers were treated on this land, including Confederate General John Bell Hood. There were more than 60 documented burials on the property. The soldiers buried there were later reinterred in proper cemeteries.

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“Now … this sacred land and the stories that it holds will be preserved, forever! This transaction was truly a team effort, with the Trust and other partners raising funds to enable the Land Conservancy of Adams County to protect the farm with a conservation easement. Because (investors) have secured this land now, (they) are proactively protecting this part of the battlefield from commercial or residential development while further securing the integrity of nearby hallowed ground, like the 18 acres Trust members … preserved at Seminary Ridge earlier this year and the preserved and restored Lee’s Headquarters site we saved in 2014.”

I think this is an awesome accomplishment! If you would like to support the American Battlefield Trust, here is a link to their website:

https://www.battlefields.org/?emci=56cf5d34-7dd9-e911-b5e9-2818784d6d68&emdi=ace04701-a1df-e911-b5e9-281878540838&ceid=315208

And It’s Offensive Because Why?

I’m having difficulty grasping what is happening in this country, specifically in the South. I just read how some group was protesting the annual UCD convention and requesting that the venue deny their gathering. Unbelievable! Thankfully, the venue ignored their request. But what’s to happen next year? I shudder to think. Here is more bizarre news about the destruction of our history because it is supposedly, suddenly, inexplicably “offensive.”

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TWO RALLYS – NO BLOODSHED
Supporters and opponents of Confederate monuments gathered in downtown Pittsboro, North Carolina on Saturday afternoon to hold opposing rallies.

Police closely monitored both rallies.
As we reported last month, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to move the Confederate monument in front of the courthouse, which has been in place since 1907. This gives until October 1st for the local chapter of the UDC to come up with a plan for the statue.
The reality is the United Daughters of the Confederacy gifted the statue — which would make it public property and as a public monument the 2015 law which limits removal and alteration of monuments on public grounds would apply. That is why the city, over a hundred years later has “repudiated” the gift. If the courts allow this repudiation, which we suspect they will, it will set a dangerous precedent erasing the monument protection laws in most states.
ALSO IN NORTH CAROLINA
Silent_Sam
A student is climing to have found the remains of the Silent Sam monument. While the Charlotte Observer has reported the discovery they have not confirmed it. So far, The University of North Carolina will not comment on the matter.
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(Articles courtesy of Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Sept. 20, 2019 ed.)

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