Police arrested a man after Confederate veteran re-enactors were pepper sprayed during the 2017 Soldiers Reunion parade in Newton on Thursday.
Two victims were treated at the scene for pepper spray exposure and released, Newton police said.
Police arrested Karl Smith, 56, of Morganton and charged him with two counts of misdemeanor assault. He was released by a magistrate on a written promise to appear in court.
Two parade participants notified police at 5:34 p.m. that a man armed with pepper spray was following the re-enactors. Witnesses told police that when the re-enactors stopped to fire their weapons, the man discharged pepper spray at them.
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Witnesses pointed out the man to police, who immediately took him into custody without incident.
Police seized a small canister of pepper spray and a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver from Smith. He had a valid conceal carry permit for the firearm, police said.
“This was the only incident during the entire week of Reunion events,” police said in a statement late Thursday. “With the assistance of numerous emergency response agencies, the Newton Police Department considers the 2017 Soldiers Reunion a successful event.”
The 125th Soldiers Reunion is believed to be the longest-running U.S. patriotic celebration not based on a holiday. The event pays tribute to past and present U.S. military personnel.
An agreement last year allowed only the Sons of Confederate Veterans to display Confederate flags as they marched in the parade, Observer news partner WBTV reported. Members of the group said they would follow the same agreement this year.
Jerry McCombs, president of the Catawba County chapter of the NAACP, told WBTV that his group would not attend the parade as long as Confederate flags are displayed. “We do not like what it represents,” he said.