A group of neo-Nazis gathered in the small Georgia town of Newnan in the presence of a heavily militarized force of at least 400 officers. The officers reportedly cornered a group of counter-protesters who were wearing masks and arrested about 10 people.
The officers warned the counter-protesters to either remove their masks or face arrest. The ones who refused to remove their masks were tossed onto the ground and were handcuffed.
None of the counter-protesters were armed but on several occasions the officers were seen pointing rifles at them. The heavily guarded rally is expected to cost taxpayers a hefty amount.
Anti-fascist protesters usually wear masks to avoid being identified by Neo-Nazis and law enforcement agencies but an officer who made the arrests said the counter-protesters broke a state law by wearing masks.
The officer was referring to a 1951 law that was rolled out to the combat the Ku Klux Klan.
The rally was organized by the National Socialist Movement. Participants were not allowed to bring in harmless items such as balloons but could bring in a weapon with them. Georgia doesn’t have strict gun laws and allows people to carry guns openly.
As the town braced for the rally, the scenes were no less than a military coup as military vehicles patrolled the streets.
Neo-Nazis were safeguarded with barricades and human shield of officers wearing riot gear made sure the groups didn’t clash. Violence was a concern to the authorities and police had reportedly been preparing for the rally since weeks now.
“Praying for Newnan. We must condemn the bigotry spread by hate groups. Our thoughts are with Sheriff Yeager, city officials, and all law enforcement officers who are working to protect residents and we hope the protests remain nonviolent,” tweeted Casey Cagle, lieutenant governor of Georgia.
The rally was the first after the August 2017 "Unite the Right" right-wing rally in Charlottesville took place. During the rally, Heather Heyer, 32, died after white supremacist James Alex Field allegedly plowed a car into a crowd of protesters gathered to oppose the rally.
The fact that a group of people, who were simply exercising their right to peacefully protest, were arrested is nothing but a hindrance in freedom of speech.
Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst