On Wednesday, American flags were ferociously waving and patriotic songs rang out, as Christians, veterans and other supporters of an embattled WWI and WWII memorial in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, assembled in support of the structure.
Last week, The Blaze first reported about the secular Freedom From Religion Foundation's (FFRF) demand that the monument, which includes a cross, be removed from public lands. In response, an estimated 1,500 people assembled against atheists' demands and in support of the monument.
(Related: R.I. City May Battle Atheists In Court Over Christian CrossCommemorating WWI & WWII Vets)
The Chippewa Herald has more about the massive assembly that unfolded:
An estimated 1,500 people -- many of them veterans -- turned out Wednesday in the Rhode Island city of Woonsocket to defend a war memorial topped with a cross whose constitutionality is being challenged by an atheist group.
Speaking before a crowd of people bearing crosses of their own and signs including one that warned "Don't Cross God," Mayor Leo Fontaine said he has a new resolve to fight to keep the monument where it is -- on city property, in the parking lot of the fire department.
He and others stressed that the 1921 monument isn't about religion, or forcing it on anyone, but rather honoring four local residents killed in World Wars I and II, including three brothers -- Alexandre, Henri and Louis Gagne. He urged those in the crowd to donate to a legal defense fund the city has set up in case there is a legal challenge; firefighters canvassed the crowd seeking to fill their boots with contributions.
The scenes at yesterday's event were reminiscent of the situation that unfolded last December in Athens, Texas, when the FFRF attempted to have a nativity scene removed from a courthouse lawn (more on that here). Five thousand Christians showed up to support the religious depiction.
Below, see clips from the Woonsicket event that were published by WPRO:
Here's another clip that provides more footage of the rousing addresses that came from event organizers and participants:
The pro-cross rally, which lasted for more than an hour and a half, included patriotic music and a plethora of speakers who stood up for the cross' presence. It was organized by Major Gen. Reginald Centracchio, who formerly headed the Rhode Island National Guard.
"That monument stays where it is, how it is," Centracchio told the cheering crowd. "There's no negotiation."
"If they move this one inch, they've caved in," mirrored Tom Poole, who serves with the Rhode Island Patriot Guard, a motorcycle group that attends military funerals.
But atheists maintain that the cross must be relocated. Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF, says that her group is devoted to fighting the cross, but that they are not currently preparing to take legal action. Gaylor suspects that the issue can be resolved without a long court battle.
"The law is on our side. We are not against veterans in any way. It isn't necessary to honor veterans with a cross on public property," she said in an interview with the Associated Press. "I think that reason is not prevailing right now. This is a lot of blowhards and emotion. Maybe they'll get it out of their system."
It seems the battle is far from over, as officials are less-than-willing to comply with secularists' demands. The city of Woonsocket has setup a war memorial fund to collect monies if, indeed, a legal battle ensues.