Public officials closed the park due to safety concerns on Saturday, August 15, 2020, and advised locals that roads would likely be closed, cautioning over travel. Stone Mountain, Georgia has been the site of rallies and protests amid the Black Lives Matter movement. The state park is famous for its large rock carving of confederate leaders. Some protesters arrived armed at demonstrations last month.
Police and the Georgia National Guard dispersed protesters in the afternoon, and began to leave at about 2 p.m., the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. No major incidents of violence were reported, but protesters and counter-protesters met face to face. The larger groups were splintered into smaller clusters, arguing and sometimes shoving each other. At one point, a protester with a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag pointed a gun at counter-protesters, who quickly charged him down. Law enforcement halted movement among the protesters to investigate a suspicious package, which was determined to be a book bag someone left behind. A protester set off a firework in a crowd, and some protesters and counter protesters attacked each other with pepper spray and insect repellent.
See photos and videos from the clash and standoff:
Photos and Videos Capture Clash Between Protesters & Counter-protesters in Stone Mountain, Georgia
Protesters and counter protesters faced off in close proximity today as the groups splintered into smaller numbers near the downtain area of Stone Mountain, Georgia. Demonstrations were planned for Saturday, August 15, 2020, and Georgia demonstrators were joined by others from Arkansas and Florida. Their group, which reached about 500, was largely outnumbered.
— Maura Sirianni 11Alive (@MauraSirianni) August 15, 2020
11 Alive News reporter Maura Sirianni shared a video on Twitter of clashes between protesters and counter protesters.
“Go home, racists, go home!” Members of BLM, Antifa and independents chant during protest in the town of Stone Mountain,” she wrote on Twitter.
Another Twitter user shared a video of an armed man delivering a speech about heritage, while protesters and counter protesters recorded each other.
Armed extremist at Stone Mountain: “These next five months are going to be hell.” pic.twitter.com/n2F8svmcY4
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) August 15, 2020
“Armed extremist at Stone Mountain: ‘These next five months are going to be hell,” Shannon Watts wrote on Twitter.
Stone Mountain Park and Stone Mountain Village officials advised locals to plan for road closures and advised them not to travel, if possible, to prevent encounters with protesters and counter protesters.
“The rally organizers, many of whom come from the militia movement, dispute they are racists. Some say they want to protect their heritage. But others involved in the planning are longtime white supremacist activists and the rally was advertised and encouraged on notorious racist Internet forums,” the the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Counter-protesters snatched hats and Confederate flags from protesters, and often burned them in the streets, the Journal-Constitution reported. Early in the protest, some protesters questioned why police were not preventing the groups to meet in close proximity. The protesters and counter-protesters were dispersed later in the afternoon.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, told Channel 2 Action News protesters were dispersed because clashes “exceeded the threshold that local authorities were comfortable with.”
At Stone Mountain, Georgia, police in riot gear have dispersed right-wing demonstrators and groups supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, after fights erupted between the opposing protesters, some of whom were armed. https://t.co/u1MbOFqy0K
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 15, 2020
“So they’ve decided to disperse the crowd and arrest those that are non-compliant,” Carden said. “Peace is always the strategy. At the end of the day, people have had the opportunity to have their voices heard.”