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.
Today right-wing activists and militias are converging on Stone Mountain Park in Georgia to hold a “Defend Stone Mo… https://t.co/64GV1I8X2g
— Ford Fischer (@Ford Fischer)1597494754.0
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.”
(Content Warning: Graphic images and language)
Today at #StoneMountainGA was some of the most intense street violence between left and right I’ve seen since Charl… https://t.co/n68RfNNyx2
— Ford Fischer (@Ford Fischer)1597517920.0
After that fight, a smoke grenade landed in the right wing side. The protesters basically threw it, along with rock… https://t.co/Zm4roj4YPz
— Ford Fischer (@Ford Fischer)1597527031.0
A group of protesters burned Confederate flags.
Protesters approached the right with a Confederate flag they apparently took. I think one had the intention of sett… https://t.co/ClEEtluhhV
— Ford Fischer (@Ford Fischer)1597525439.0
*GRAPHIC LANGUAGE WARNING*
Anti-fascists at the “Defend Stone Mountain” event burning a confederate flag and an Ame… https://t.co/bqeBuRxmk4
— Maura Sirianni 11Alive (@Maura Sirianni 11Alive)1597514955.0
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.”