A North Carolina town announced it has canceled a Christmas parade as a result of fears of protests because of the inclusion of a Confederate heritage group.

The Wake Forest Downtown Inc. Board of Directors had previously announced it would allow the Sons & Daughters of the Confederacy heritage group to march in its annual Christmas parade. However, this was met with immediate blowback from some “outside groups,” some of whom threatened to protest the parade.

The blowback comes as communities across the southern U.S. have been debating or outright removing Confederate iconography that has permeated the South since the Civil War. This is due to the association with the slave trade and segregation that dominated the South, the aftereffects of which are still felt today.

The Wake Forest Police Department said it received “credible” information about protests, sparking concerns of violence. One group planning to protest reportedly confirmed to appear allegedly grew from 10 people to more than 200 within two days of the parade announcement.

“Groups that contact us about their plans to protest tend to follow our rules and regulations,” Wake Forest Police Chief Jeff Leonard said on the town’s official website. “We’re concerned about outside agitators that don’t notify us. Radicals don’t typically call ahead. These aren’t area residents we’re talking about. These are professional protesters who have no regard for the safety and well-being of others.”

The town board ultimately voted to cancel the parade “due to the potential for violence.”

“For most of us, our annual Christmas parade is about spending time with friends and family and celebrating the spirit of the season,” Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones said. “Yet there are some outside our community whose sole purpose is to use the occasion to promote their political agenda without any regard for the health and safety of our citizens. The WFD Board made the wise decision to deny these outside agitators the opportunity to use Wake Forest as a platform to spread hate and incite violence.”

Town officials will reportedly begin meeting early in 2020 to make plans for town parades to avoid “distractions” from “outside groups.”

Confederate Flag
Missouri man claims him owning a Confederate Flag, pictured June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina, doesn't make him racist. Getty Images