The Alabama Flaggers, a pro-Confederate battle flag group, held a rally Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala., to demand secession from the United States. Shannon Heupel/Advertiser
If support for the secession of Alabama from the United States can be measured in rally attendance, it's safe to assume Alabama won't be seceding any time soon.
More than 300 people were expected at the Alabama Flaggers Secession Rally, according to AF co-director Freda Mincey-Burton and the event's Facebook page. On the steps of the Capitol Saturday, attendance peaked at 30 people — including event organizers — and rain showers after the first hour of the event sealed it as a failure. The 5-hour rally ended after about 2 hours.
"This is really shocking me that these people aren't here," Mincey-Burton said.
The rally was originally scheduled for Friday. According to the event's Facebook page, it was rescheduled to Saturday to improve attendance.
Gaining state majority in favor of separating from the country is one of the biggest requirements for a successful secession. After seeing the turnout for Saturday's event, Alabama Flaggers co-director Justin Burton acknowledged the difficulty of getting so many people behind his cause.
"Getting the majority is the biggest obstacle," Burton said. "People don't understand secession and are scared. They don't know what is involved, and all they see is civil war."
Mincey-Burton and her husband Justin said their group is not a radical or racist group. Mincey-Burton pointed to work done building monuments for Confederate soldiers in Gadsden and the state of Mississippi. She said the push for secession stems from the country "treading on" Southern heritage in the wake of the Charleston shooting and subsequent removal of the Confederate flag from the public eye.
"The Civil War happened, and there's not anything anybody can do to sweep it under the rug," Mincey-Burton said. "Taking the battle flag down, taking statues of Robert E. Lee down, that's like taking George Washington out of the Revolutionary War. This happened. Face it, and get over it."
She and other speakers called out Gov. Robert Bentley for removing the flag from the Capitol grounds.
"Turncoat Bentley, Benedict Arnold Bentley, he took the flag down illegally, and I think there should be an injunction," Mincey-Burton said.
While marketed as a secession rally, the event was also used to show appreciation for and continue to protest the removal of the Confederate battle flag. Some such as Montgomery resident Thomas Taunton and Macon County resident James Perry do not support the secession of Alabama and were only present to rally for the right to preserve Confederate history.
"It's not a slavery flag. It's not a racist flag," Taunton said. "It's to represent our forefathers who died fighting for the Confederacy, and we stand beside them."
Perry said he had a problem with the media's preference to publicize black heritage, and said his ancestors are dishonored by the lack of acceptance of Confederate history.
"People have been brainwashed on how to think about this flag," Perry said. "There are 24 million blacks in this country. There's 82 million descendants of Confederate soldiers in this country. Why do we have to listen to their heritage all the time? Every time Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King broke wind, (the media) reports it, and it's on the front page. There's not a sign down here commemorating the Confederacy, and it was born here."
As of 2013, the U.S. Census reported a population of about 45 million blacks and estimates on Confederate descendants range anywhere from 50 to 80 million. Taunton and Perry's disagreement is not with black history, but the trampling of theirs, they said.
"Jefferson Davis Highway was Jefferson Davis Highway before it was ever Atlanta Highway," Taunton said. "Why are they going to tear down our heritage, and let the black people go on with their heritage? We don't have any problem with their heritage, but don't deny us ours."
Also in attendance were members of the League of the South, a "Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic."
Speech topics from AF and LOS members ranged from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to World War II and the frustration of political correctness. In the end, all official messages were centered on Confederate pride and the goal of eventually seceding from the country.
With less than 30 people on hand to hear the messages, they'll probably be waiting for a while.