Madison resident Hanu Karlapalem, the second vice-president of the Limestone County NAACP (center) was joined Thursday by Wilbert Woodruff, president of the Limestone County NAACP, and Jocelyn Broer, a concerned citizen who ran for city council in 2020, at a press conference Thursday morning.

Limestone County NAACP addresses concerns about festival

MADISON – The Madison Street Festival is here. The highly anticipated event, planned for this Saturday, Oct. 7, in downtown Madison, is a favorite among area families looking for family-friendly fun with music, food, arts and crafts, community demonstrations and children’s activities. It even kicks off with one of the most popular area parades.

But this year, a group has expressed concern over a business and a local organization they say have been scheduled to participate in the festival.

Madison resident Hanu Karlapalem is the second vice president of the Limestone County NAACP. He said in a press conference Thursday morning at Home Place Park in Madison, that he has grave concerns over the festival’s inclusion of a business vendor representing a Huntsville gun and pawn shop and a planned booth by the Madison Chapter of the Moms for Liberty.

“Organizers of Madison Street Festival who claim to support Madison City Schools should be sensitive to the terror caused by so many school shootings and mass killings and forego a gun booth at the event,” Karlapalem said.

However, a statement from the city of Madison indicated there is a misunderstanding. “There is not going to be a gun shop/pawn shop at the festival and no firearms will be sold there,” stated Gabe Kuenzli, a communications person for the city.

Lt. Dan’s Gun and Pawn in Huntsville had shown interest months ago in being one of the many business vendors showcased at the festival. Their name was included in a list of vendors posted on the Madison Street Festival website, but Lt. Dan’s closed about a month ago. “They were never going to be allowed to sell guns there in the first place,” Kuenzli added. “That was just a conclusion that people jumped to without asking first.”

Karlapalem was joined Thursday by Wilbert Woodruff, president of the Limestone County NAACP, and Jocelyn Broer, a concerned citizen who ran for city council in 2020. Regardless of whether the gun and pawn shop still plans to be at the festival, the fact they were once included still concerns them. “We are very concerned that the Madison Street Festival would have a part of its vendors as gun salesmen,” Woodruff said.

When asked if anyone had first reached out to city officials or Madison Street Festival organizers about their concerns, Karlapalem said they had not. He said they thought a press conference may be the best way to voice their objections.

Another concern addressed at the press conference is the inclusion of Madison County Moms for Liberty at Saturday’s festival. The local chapter is part of a national organization professing to fight for parental rights at all levels of government, something they say has been under increased attack in recent years. The Moms For Liberty website states its mission as “dedicated to fighting for the survival of America by unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights.”

Opponents of the group say they are trying to ban books by pushing for certain books they deem inappropriate for children in public libraries moved out of the children’s section or removed. They say Moms for Liberty has specifically targeted books with sensitive LGBTQ topics.

“People of Madison should not pay attention to the Moms for Liberty message of hate and violence,” said Karlapalem.

The Record has reached out to Moms for Liberty for a statement, and to confirm if they still plan to be at the festival. We will continue to update this story if they respond.

Karlapalem said the purpose of their press conference was to let people, especially parents, know about the concerns they have so they can possibly monitor what their children are exposed to at the festival. They did not call for any protests or other action during the festival.

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