Violent confrontations erupted on Saturday in the city of Stone Mountain between members of a far-right militia and counter-protesters that included Black Lives Matter activists and self-proclaimed anti-fascists.
An Arkansas group called “Confederate States III%,” applied for a permit to hold a rally in Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park. The right-wing group requested to hold a 2,000-person rally “to defend and protect our history and second Amendment rights.” Stone Mountain Park is home to a giant carving of Confederate leaders, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson in a granite mountain in an Atlanta suburb.
The Stone Mountain Memorial Association declined the permit on Aug. 4 because of a violent clash in April 2016.
On Friday, the city announced that Stone Mountain Park would be closed on Saturday in anticipation of protests by the demonstrators. City officials also advised people to avoid the downtown area.
“While the city has little information on what to expect during this time, out of the abundance of caution we are asking the General Public to avoid the City of Stone Mountain, specifically the downtown area, ?on Saturday, August 15th, 2020 beginning at 4:00am until 12:00 midnight?,” a statement from the city read.
Dozens of right-wing demonstrators, many armed and wearing military gear, gathered in downtown Stone Mountain. There were a few hundred counter-demonstrators, many expressing support for Black Lives Matter, as well as black-clad members of the left-wing Atlanta Antifascists. Some of the counter-demonstrators were also armed.
Brawls broke out between the groups, and rocks were hurled. Ford Fischer, editor-in-chief of N2SReports, captured footage of a brutal melee and said it “was some of the most intense street violence between left and right I’ve seen since Charlottesville.” He added, “In this fight, two were left bloodied after a head was smashed by baseball bat.”
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A group of protesters burned Confederate flags.
Police officers in riot gear attempted to disperse the crowds, and pepper spray was used. Georgia National Guard troops were also deployed.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, said Saturday’s violent clashes “exceeded the threshold that local authorities were comfortable with.”
“So they’ve decided to disperse the crowd and arrest those that are non-compliant,” Carden said. “Peace is always the strategy,” he said. “At the end of the day, people have had the opportunity to have their voices heard.”