STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — A prominent civil rights group is calling on Stone Mountain State Park to cancel plans for a Confederate Memorial Day rally.
The permit for the event in 2021 was denied because of the coronavirus pandemic. The park told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot they legally cannot revoke this year’s permit.
Under Georgia law, Stone Mountain is an official Confederate memorial site. That legal status is why the Sons of Confederate Veterans applied for and got a permit to rally there on Saturday.
Now the Southern Poverty Law Center wants that permit revoked.
Michael and Sara Johnson of Duluth do not like the fact that the Sons of Confederate Veterans will hold a rally at the park this weekend on what used to be Confederate Memorial Day.
“Do I personally think it’s OK? Far from it,” Michael Johnson said.
It would not be the first pro-Confederate rally held at Stone Mountain Park. The state of Georgia officially declared it a Confederate memorial site years ago.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it’s a little touchy, and a lot of people would like to see that change happen. I’m one of them,” said Sara Johnson.
The Southern Poverty Law Center demanded Monday that the permit for this year’s rally be revoked.
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“We don’t want to see Stone Mountain used for hateful purposes. There is still time for the (Stone Mountain Memorial Association) to change its mind,” the SPLC said in a statement.
But the SMMA said that, legally, it cannot deny the permit to any organization so long as there is no violence involved.
On Wednesday, Elliot contacted the association’s CEO, who said, “This is a free speech event covered by the First Amendment. We will continue to follow state law as well as honor the First Amendment rights of all Georgians.
“Unless law enforcement intelligence issues us a warning of potential violence or a clear and present danger, then we will err toward maintaining an open and welcoming environment.”
Linda Koroma drove up from Fairburn to visit the mountain on Wednesday.
She believes the Sons of Confederate Veterans should keep its permit because, she said, everyone has a right to free speech.
“They can express their opinion and show up and express their opinion in a respectful way and not get violent on somebody else because they hold a different opinion,” Koroma said.
Elliot attempted to contact the Sons of Confederate Veterans for a comment, but so far, he has not heard back.
There is word of some protests planned against Saturday’s rally. But so far, the park told Elliot, none of those groups have filed for a permit of their own.
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