Over the weekend, hundreds of people showed up to Stone Mountain Park in Georgia armed with Confederate flags, signs, and concealed weapons to advocate for their traditions and the rebel flag that has been at the center of a heated racial debate since the Charleston AME massacre last month.
Despite video of some protesters screaming out “White power,” the Sunday event was peaceful, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. The majority of rebel flag supporters were White, but an African-American man also spoke about his connection to the event.
“It’s a symbol, just like any other symbol,” Thomas Jewell, of Cartersville, Georgia said. “You can use it for whatever you like, but it’s not a racist symbol.”
Protesters maintain the recent demand to remove the flag from the park’s entrance is unnecessary. Shortly after the Confederate flag was taken down from the South Carolina Statehouse in July, Stone Mountain’s flag and monument of Confederate war heroes came into question.
Bill Stephens of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association writes, “The flag in question is still flying in one location in the park, on the flag terrace on the walk up trail to the mountain top. There are five flags on that terrace: the current US Flag, three flags that flew over the Confederacy at one point or another and the so called battle flag that has been deemed by some to be offensive. Many discussions are underway, but that’s the current status. All five are still flying.”
The flag was never removed, and according to law, no one is allowed to touch the figures carved into the side of Stone Mountain.
Anti-flag protesters were also in attendance, but were kept away from the rally with a fence and a group of police officers. Tensions began to rise when supporters climbed the mountain and caused friction with others who were at the park with their families.
A photo of the moment a flag supporter attempted to pull his gun out on a police officer went viral, showing the startling difference between police interaction with a Caucasian American versus their interaction with Blacks.
Stone Mountain is often looked at as a beloved place by its residents, but its roots have a connection to the Ku Klux Klan. While many cite its original birthplace as Pulaski, Tennessee, the Klan went national in 1915 after it was identified as a fraternal organization in Stone Mountain.
Meanwhile, many continued to dismiss Charleston shooter Dylann Roof, who said he wanted to kill Blacks and start a race war, and his veneration of the flag.
“It’s the heritage behind the flag,” Dike Young said. “It’s heritage and everyone wants to put the hate crime on it … it’s freedom and what the South stands for. Color don’t mean nothing.”
You can see more images from the rally below.
SOURCE: Atlanta Journal Constitution | VIDEO CREDIT: NDN