Militias and counter-protesters faced off Saturday afternoon in downtown Stone Mountain at a rally planned by a group with white supremacists ties.
Stone Mountain Park said it would shut down Saturday because of the rally. A group called “Defend Stone Mountain” announced they plan to march to the park with other groups.
Park officials told Channel 2 Action News only one group called the “3 Percenters” out of Alabama applied for a permit. It was denied because of violence surrounding past protests. No other group was given a permit.
Channel 2′s Mark Winne was in Stone Mountain outside a church where the two opposing groups gathered Saturday morning. Winne saw a lot of heated, shouting arguments and a few physical confrontations where people were shoved and punched. Many of the protesters on both sides carried guns.
It appeared the counter-protesters dramatically outnumbered the militia group.
After multiple fights broke out, DeKalb police’s civil disorder team, Stone Mountain police and SWAT members moved to disperse the crowds shortly before 1 p.m. They were backed up by the Georgia National Guard.
Police said no law enforcement officers were hurt, protesters only had minor injuries, property wasn’t damaged and no one was arrested.
“Our mission was clear, allow for the opportunity for all sides to exercise their free speech,” Stone Mountain Police Chief Chancey Troutman said. “I believe we accomplished that mission. All sides had their say.”
Troutman said he was surprised by all the fighting.
“I didn’t expect them to be fighting like they did, but once they started fighting in front of the church, that’s when I got together with my resources and we moved in,” Troutman said.
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Georgia National Guard Adjutant General Tom Garden said the guard and state law enforcement agencies had been massed at Stone Mountain. Local authorities asked for reinforcements when things turned violent.
“People have had an opportunity to have their voices heard,” Carden said. “There’s obviously been a little bit of violence and it exceeds the thresholds the local authorities were comfortable with.”
Chris Hill told Winne he’s with the III% Security Force, what he called a constitutional militia group. Hill estimate the group had about 75 people go to City of Stone Mountain, many of whom embrace the Confederate flag.
Hill said that his group does not embrace white supremacy but was there to honor and defend the Confederate monument.
“I’m here to say that I will not be intimidated. I will not be accosted,” Hill said.
Hill said a counter-protester drew a handgun out of his waistband in a confrontation with him, although he didn’t point the gun at Hill.
Counter-protester Neil Wolf said he is a veteran and that the Confederate flag takes away from what he fought for.
“I believe in Black Lives Matter,” Wolf said. “I’m also a combat veteran and I believe that the Confederate flat is antithetical to what I went overseas to fight for.”
Channel 2′s Audrey Washington talked to local business owners, who were not happy to see the street closed down. They said they had no other choice but to wait for the protests to end. Several shops were closed Saturday.
Betty Dickerson-Bloxham owns Twisted Sister. She said today’s protest was on top of businesses being impacted by COVID-19. She said she expects these types of protests will continue for months.
“This place was closed down. Nobody could be doing anything of the nature of business that they normally do,” Dickerson-Bloxham said. “It was just another day that we didn’t get to do what we had to do, but that was a bit more important and needed addressing.”
The DeKalb Emergency Management Agency is asking people to stay away from the Park until midnight Saturday.
Another white supremacist rally in 2016 at Stone Mountain ended in violence and arrests after protesters clashed with hundreds of counter-protesters.
Cox Media Group