A pro-white rally held at Stone Mountain Park turned violent on Saturday when protesters demonstrated against what they called a message of hate.
According to CBS News, John Bankhead, a spokesman for Stone Mountain Park police, said nine people were arrested during the demonstration.
The pro-white group "Rock Stone Mountain" received a permit for the rally at the park, Bankhead said, and were gathering to celebrate their Confederate heritage. Organizers made it clear that they did not want such symbols at the event to avoid violence.
Arrests made as police in riot gear clash with counter-protesters at Stone Mountain https://t.co/ZZWUf9udDQ pic.twitter.com/TG3WIwlww9But violence erupted none-the-less when the protesters tried to reach the pro-white group, set a barricade on fire and hurled rocks and fireworks at police attempting to block them.
— AJC (@ajc) April 23, 2016
By midday, park officials, fearing for the safety of visitors, closed down several attractions, including the cable car, amusement center, and laser show, although the park remained open.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, only about two dozen pro-white demonstrators showed up at the rally. When one man showed up with a large red flag advertising the Ku Klux Klan, the remaining demonstrators packed up to leave.
racist system. this is the expression of HATRED not freedom. education is key, knowledge is power. Stone Mountain pic.twitter.com/Uq4h4BBByFDespite a low turnout and the violence that erupted, organizers of the pro-white rally deemed the event a success, according to demonstrator Joseph Andrews.
— Ibukun (@GoldenVibess) April 23, 2016
"They didn't win. They didn't shut us down. We had a successful, peaceful rally."In the meantime, the counter-protesters also claimed victory. Dawn O'Neal said she was proud she and many other stood their ground in the face of the demonstrators celebration of the Confederate past.
"We made a statement that we are not gonna get intimidated by and watch this terrorist group harass and incite fear and violence. We stood up to them today."The first clash with police came as counter-protesters made their way along a park road trying to reach the site of the pro-white rally.
This is the current scene at Stone Mountain Park. More images and the latest: https://t.co/R1EkgxvzVE #fox5atl pic.twitter.com/XKeqY2aLRVChanting "Black Lives Matter" and "Hey hey, ho ho, the KKK has got to go," the protesters soon left the road to travel through the wooded trails to reach the white power group.
— FOX 5 Atlanta (@FOX5Atlanta) April 23, 2016
Bankhead said at least one man was seen spraying a Georgia State Patrol officer with pepper spray, while other skirmishes erupted in various spots.
Once the protesters got in sight of the Confederate flags, protesters began emptying trash cans and throwing rock and fireworks towards the barricades that separated the two groups.
Eventually the pro-white supremacists had to be encircled by police in riot gear for their protection.
Katherine Thilo, who joined the pro-white rally with members of her church, lamented that the rally held two days before the observance of Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia — a paid day off for some state employees — was meant to be peaceful.
"Ninety-nine percent of the protesters are peaceful, but this is what they gonna show on the news."Her fellow church member, Scott Maddox, also noted that they wanted a peaceful rally honoring their Confederate heritage.
"I came here for a peaceful rally. When you start throwing rocks… that is not what this is about. We are not gonna be a part of that."Several of the pro-white demonstrators said many of the more than 2,000 expected to attend the rally were scared off because of threats made by the protesters.
Greg Calhoun, one of the organizers of the rally, said it is indicative of the times today and likened the violence by the protestors to the riots that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, in November, 2014.
"That's America these days. The liberal media and the police have kept our people away."
Anti "pro-white" Protestors getting closer to the self-described "White Power" rally. @wsbtv #stonemountain pic.twitter.com/StQEUKSlq5John Estes, another event organizer, told CNN that said Saturday's pro-white rally was intended to focus on what he called attempts to erase Confederate history and the white race altogether.
— Audrey Washington (@AudreyWSBTV) April 23, 2016
Kim Beasley and Dwayne Jones explained why they supported the pro-white rally, as well as the Confederate Flag.
"We don't believe in carrying these flags for racist reasons. We don't believe the Civil War was over racism. It was over tyranny."[Image via Shutterstock]