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. Counter-protests were planned, leading park officials to shut down on Saturday, August 15, 2020 in anticipation of clashes. The park planned to return to normal operations Sunday, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported.
Some protesters arrived armed at demonstrations last month. The park gates would be closed from 4 a.m. to midnight. See more photos and videos from today’s protests here.
Here’s what you need to know:
Clashes Between Protesters & Counter-protesters Were Heated But Free of Serious Violence
Police and National Guard units were called to Stone Mountain, Georgia, where protesters and counter-protesters, including militias and white supremacists, clashed at the state park. The park is known for its large rock carving of Confederate leaders. At about 2 p.m. Saturday, August 15, police and the National Guard were preparing to leave after dispersing protesters across two blocks of territory, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“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 Journal-Constitution reported.
Stone Mountain Park and Stone Mountain Village officials advised locals to anticipate road closures and refrain from travel if possible.
The Journal-Constitution reported the protests were angry and heated, but there were no major incidents, no reports of serious violence and no major injuries. In some cases, protesters sprayed each other with pepper spray or insect repellent, and there were some reports of pushing and shoving. Someone also set off a firework in the crowd.
A protester with a ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag pointed a gun at counter-protesters, who quickly charged him down.
At one time, law enforcement halted movement among the protesters while they investigated a suspicious package, but it was determined to be a book bag someone left behind.
— Maura Sirianni 11Alive (@MauraSirianni) August 15, 2020
The state park has been the site of previous demonstrations, but the police presence was different this time, the newspaper reported. Previously, confrontations were kept to a minimum with police barriers and lines that prevented the two sides from direct confrontation. On Saturday, the two sides confronted each other directly. Counter-protesters snatched hats and Confederate flags, often burning them in the street.
About 30 groups were on the city’s streets, countering a much smaller group that reached about 500. One of those among the smaller groups, Georgia Security Force III%, retreated early in the protest.
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.”
“So they’ve decided to disperse the crowd and arrest those that are non-compliant,” he continued. “Peace is always the strategy. At the end of the day, people have had the opportunity to have their voices heard.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported no arrests.
The protests and counter-protests splintered off into small groups of people arguing with one another face to face in exchanges that were sometimes volatile, reporters on the scene said. Some protesters were recording each other and operating drones. One protester ripped the mask off an Associated Press photographer.
Among the groups was the Confederate States III% militia, whose members arrived carrying Confederate flags and “All Lives Matter” signs. They were denied a permit to protest in the park, the Journal-Constitution reported.
One protester questioned why the police did not have a larger presence, at around 11:30 a.m.
“Why are the police allowing people to get into each others’ faces so much?” he said to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter. “Here there are a lot of guns. It seems stupid. What are they waiting for? Someone to get killed?”
Police and the Georgia National Guard later dispersed the groups.