Police Hold Back Anti-Confederate Protestors At Stone Mountain

Apr 23, 2016

It's been a long day at Stone Mountain Park, where hundreds of protestors showed up to counter a Confederate rally being held there. 

Rise Up Georgia temporarily shut down the main entrance to the park.
Credit Trevor Young / GPB

The conflict started mid-morning as groups like Rise Up Georgia surrounded the park, leaving their cars blocking the main entrance. 

A long line of stopped vehicles kept park-goers from getting anywhere near the entrance, as Rise Up protestors demonstrated with chants and signs by the ticket counters. After about an hour, they returned to their cars to enter the park.

Rise Up member Dawn O'Neal said her group fights for marginalized peoples. She thinks the idea of  "white supremacy" is an illness, and even small demonstrations like this one can't be ignored.

"If we ignore the Klan and their actions, the next generation will have to put up with it. We are not gonna ignore white supremacy anymore," O'Neal said.

She also said the biggest challenge for the protest was police. O'Neal believes the counter-demonstration was just as much about protesting law enforcement that chooses to protect the Klan.

"And we can't ignore police violence," said O'Neal. "We had to stand up to the police as well today."

SWAT teams hold back counter-protesters.
Credit Trevor Young / GPB

Meanwhile, other protestors of various affiliations tried to enter side entrances of the park which were blockaded by the Georgia State Patrol. Barriers of heavily armed police stopped a crowd of hundreds on Robert E. Lee Boulevard.

Many people walked through the wooded areas around the police to get to the Yellow Daisy parking lot where the Confederate rally was being held. Before the entrance to that lot on Hugh Howell Road, some protestors began to throw fireworks and rocks. There was also a massive wooden structure lit on fire in the middle of the block. Eight of the protestors responsible were arrested.

A police blockade on Robert E. Lee Boulevard.
Credit Trevor Young / GPB

The conflict shut down most major attractions at Stone Mountain Park for the day. One mother, Brittany Buchanan, says she drove over an hour to the park to celebrate her son's birthday, and had to turn back.

"I'm having to stop at the gate because the Ku Klux Klan is inside?" said Brittany Buchanan. "People need to stop and realize, you ain't above nobody. All lives matter!"

Black Lives Matter protestors confront a pair of Confederate supporters.
Credit Trevor Young / GPB

The Confederate rally, made up of perhaps twenty people, was barricaded by a fence and nearly two hundred armored police guards. The demonstrators waved Confederate flags and a sign that read "Diversity Equals White Genocide." The group had a pre-approved permit to rally at Stone Mountain, something none of the counter-protest groups had obtained.

One pair of Confederate supporters were hounded after stumbling upon a  crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors. The couple were harassed, but police acted quickly to avoid any dangerous physical confrontation. They were escorted to the Yellow Daisy lot, where SWAT teams and helicopters were stationed. 

The majority of the counter-protestors migrated to a wooded park area at the edge of the parking lot across from the Confederate rally. Between them stood an army ready with guns and gas masks, which kept the protestors from crossing the lot to the fenced area. 

Counter-protesters gather across the parking lot from the Confederate rally.
Credit Trevor Young / GPB

Both the Confederate group and the counter group held their respective positions, making their point with signs, shouts and chants. At about 2 p.m., the protestors began to dissipate, leaving only a handful of dedicated stragglers to carry out the afternoon's effort.