Armed white nationalists clashed with anti-fascist demonstrators in Georgia on Saturday as Stone Mountain Park, famed for its giant carvings of Confederate leaders, was closed over concerns of a planned far-right rally and a counter-protest.
Police were dispatched to downtown Stone Mountain to disperse protesters after fights broke out between the groups.
Last month, the far-right group Three Percenters applied to hold a rally for Saturday, with more than 2,000 people at the park.
The permit was denied, but several groups, including another called Defending Stone Mountain, said online they would hold a rally at the park anyway, NBC reported.
They urged their followers to bring US and Confederate flags to the area.
In response, an opposing group, Atlanta Antifascists, said it would hold a counterprotest.
It has been clear for weeks that Stone Mountain tomorrow will be a focal point for white power organizing. Follow @flowerunited for tomorrow’s anti-racist counter-mobilization, the group tweeted on Friday. “ALL OUT against racists and the far-Right! Spread the word!
City officials warned residents to avoid the area, saying that every effort is being made to ensure that any demonstrations conducted within the City’s limits are performed peacefully and without incident.
However the groups clashed, as the far right protesters arrived armed with guns.
There were few police present, local media AJC reported, and anti-fascist protesters burned Confederate flags in the street.
The outlet estimated that around 30 militia and related-member groups are on the city’s streets, in close proximity to about 200 counterprotesters.
Many of the counter protesters donned “Black Lives Matter t-shirts”.
Both groups were seen recording one another on cell phones, while small arguments broke out between individuals.
There were reports of insect repellent being sprayed, and possible pepper spray, and a medic attended a man who had been sprayed with a substance.
Why are the police allowing people to get into each others’ faces so much? one man told AJC.
Here there are a lot of guns. It seems stupid. What are they waiting for? Someone, to get killed?
Black Lives Matter protesters and other Antifa groups chanted Go home, racists, go home! at the white nationalist group members.
Scuffles broke out over a Christian flag, with two masked men trying to grab it off an older man, who was not wearing a mask.
Police continued to remain at the Stone Mountain Park, where no protests were reported to have taken place.