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Local News

Activist group voices concern over Civil War-era cannon demonstration in Mokena

Members of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry march down Palmer Drive in the Elmhurst Memorial Day parade on May 27.
Members of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry march down Palmer Drive in the Elmhurst Memorial Day parade on May 27.

An activist group is voicing concerns over a Civil War-era demonstration scheduled for a public Fourth of July celebration organized by the village of Mokena.

The Southwest Suburban Activists posted on Facebook on Tuesday about messages received on Mokena’s Fourth of July celebration, which is to include a demonstration by the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, an organization of reenactors based in Addison. The reenactors are scheduled to “demonstrate authentic Civil War-era cannons” during a patriotic concert.

The Southwest Suburban Activists cited portions of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry’s website that describe it as a “family-oriented unit of men, women and children … portraying the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, Co D. We chose to be Confederate because they fought hard for what they believed in – protecting their homes, states’ rights, equal treatment in commerce, elimination of illegal tariffs, and preservation of the agricultural way of life.”

The 2nd Kentucky Cavalry’s website makes no mention of the Confederacy fighting hard for its belief in perpetuating slavery.

The group’s website also has photos of reenactors in what appears to be Confederate uniforms. The logo at the top of the site shows the group’s name superimposed on a Confederate flag. 

In its Facebook post, the activist group urged the village of Mokena “not to glorify the Confederacy.”

“They might want to know that they do have residents of color and it is a slap in the face to them to have confederate actors there,” said Emily Biegel, a Frankfort resident and member of the Southwest Suburban Activists.

Biegel said she found the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry’s website “alarming.”

Richard Hargreaves, who said he is a 2nd Kentucky Cavalry second lieutenant, explained members dress up in a variety of military uniforms, including those of Confederate soldiers, Union soldiers and soldiers from World War II. He added they do not fly flags other than the American flag.

“We promote the history of the United States,” Hargreaves said, adding that when reenactors go to a events around the Chicago suburbs every year, people ask questions about their uniforms and cannons.

Mokena Mayor Frank Fleischer said that the group will be there to “fire cannons and that is it.”

John Tomasoski, the village administrator, said he felt the demonstration adds to the festivities in celebrating the country and was not meant to promote “negative feelings.”

“That’s a matter of someone’s interpretation,” Tomasoski said. “We’re not trying to offend anybody.”

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