Members of pro-Confederate and white supremacist organizations clashed with counter-protesters in Georgia on Saturday after a far-right rally turned into a violent standoff between opposing groups.
Several dozen right-wing activists toting rifles and Confederate battle flags gathered in the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, near Stone Mountain Park, home to a giant sculpture of Confederate leaders.
The Three Percenters militia, which organized the event, had applied last month to hold a more than 2,000-strong rally ‘to defend and protect our history and second Amendment rights’ at the park, in response to a march by an all-Black militia held on July 4.
The application however, was denied by state officials who cited violence at a similar event in 2016. Stone Mountain Memorial Association spokesperson John Bankhead said the park denied the permit on August 4.
In a statement ahead of the planned rally on Friday, Stone Mountain Park announced it would close its gates to the public due to security concerns.
But several online groups, including one dubbed ‘Defending Stone Mountain,’ that vowed to march in the park anyway, gathered in downtown Stone Mountain armed with rifles and military gear.
Scroll down for video
Tensions between the two rival groups reached a boiling point in Stone Mountain on Saturday as brawls broke out among members of opposing sides
Members of right-wing groups clashed with counter-protesters (pictured) after members of the Black Lives Matter movement and Antifa groups descended on the event
A counter demonstrator holding a placard calling for the removal of the Confederate monument is seen facing off with a member of an opposing group
For the first few hours of the rally, things were relatively peaceful, aside from some shoving and pushing and spirited arguments
Brawls eventually broke out among the crowd, prompting police to step in and disperse protesters
State and city officials braced for a violence ahead of the rally on Friday, closing Stone Mountain Park, where event organizers initially intended to hold the event
A man wearing a Trump 2020 cap was seen arguing with a woman protesting against racism and white supremacy
Stone Mountain Park is famed for its giant rock sculpture of Confederate Civil War figures Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. The sculpture is America’s largest Confederate memorial
Meanwhile, hundreds of counter-protesters many of whom wore shirts or carried signs expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement descended on the march.
Chaos unfolded in the city, just as officials had feared, as the rival groups faced off with each other for hours. People on both sides carried rifles.
Members of right-wing groups proudly waving their Confederate flags were seen coming face to face with anti-racism and anti-fascist activists.
Several Black Lives Matter supporters were seen in heated confrontations with far-right activists, many of whom were wearing Trump 2020 shirts and hats.
For several hours, there was little visible police presence and things were largely peaceful, aside from some shoving and pushing and spirited arguments.
Some left-wing activists were also seen setting Confederate battle flags alight.
But just before 1pm, tensions between the rival groups reached a boiling point, as brawls broke out among the crowd.
Right wing activists faced off against a few hundred counter-protesters, many of whom wore shirts or carried signs expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement
A man armed with a rifle holds up an ‘All Lives Matter’ banner while other far-right participants waved Confederate and Trump 2020 flags
Hundreds of counter-protesters including members of anti-racist and anti-fascist organizations expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement descended on to the rally
Anti-racism protesters were seen setting Confederate battle flags in the middle of the street
Protests had been generally peaceful up until 1pm when fights broke out, with people punching and kicking each other and throwing rocks
Several dozen right-wing demonstrators wearing military gear attended the rally. A man holding a bible is pictured speaking to protesters during the event
People from opposing sides were seen punching and kicking each other and throwing rocks, prompting police officers in riot gear to move in to disperse the crowds.
National Guard troops were also deployed to the scene as chaos erupted.
Officials for the city of Stone Mountain had advised people Friday to stay away from the city all day, residents to stay home and businesses to shut down.
‘Do not confront the protesters,’ the city wrote in a public announcement posted on social media.
A fight breaks out between demonstrators and counter demonstrators after tensions between the two groups boiled over
Protesters from opposing sides were seen having intense confrontations with each other
Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators are held back from each other as tensions flared between the two
The National Guard was eventually deployed to downtown Stone Mountain to disperse protesters as various militia groups faced off
Police officers wore riot gear as they moved in to disperse crowds after fights broke out between groups
Heavily armed militia marched in downtown Stone Mountain as part of a rally ‘to defend and protect our history and second Amendment rights’
One right-wing activist was photographed with a firearm tucked in his shorts during the rally. People from both sides were seen carrying rifles
‘Please know that the city’s local law enforcement agency is managing the situation and has devised a plan for the protection of life and property,’ the announcement continued.
‘Every effort is being made to ensure that any demonstrations conducted within the city’s limits are performed peacefully and without incident.’
Last year, the park also closed down rather than allow a rally organized by white supremacists to go forward.
Bankhead said police would be present to keep demonstrators away and the park will reopen Sunday.
The predominantly black demonstrators on July 4 spoke out against the huge sculpture depicting General Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson.
Carved into a granite mountain, the bas-relief sculpture is the largest Confederate monument ever crafted.
The 100 to 200 protesters, many of whom carried large rifles, were peaceful.
Although the park has historically been a gathering spot for white supremacists, the adjoining city of Stone Mountain has a majority-Black population today.
The park at Stone Mountain markets itself as a family theme park rather than a shrine to the ‘Lost Cause’ mythology that romanticizes the Confederacy as chivalrous defenders of states’rights.
It’s a popular recreation spot for many families on the east side of Atlanta, with hiking trails, a golf course, boat rentals and other attractions. The park has long been known for its laser light shows, but those have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.