Photo Essay Dispatches From the Anti-Fascist March at Stone Mountain (Photo Essay)

Near Atlanta, beyond the incessant hype and big-monied bluster of Super Bowl LII, another confrontation roiled over the weekend. White supremacists ultimately failed to hold a planned, armed “white power” rally titled Rock Stone Mountain II when an anti-racist coalition organized to oppose them. Truthdig reported live from Stone Mountain Park, Georgia, where the planned white nationalist rally gave way to a counterprotest that focused on the need to end fascism by all means necessary.

About 15 miles outside of Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park, according to its website, is “Georgia’s most-visited attraction” replete with over 3,000 acres of hiking trails, golf, amusement park rides and accommodations. It also is, as the New York Times dubbed it in an October 2018 headline, “The Largest Confederate Monument Problem in the World.” On Friday, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association made the decision to close the park on Saturday because of planned protests.

Carved into the north face of Stone Mountain is the world’s largest bas-relief sculpture. It depicts three Confederate Civil War leaders, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Considered a “sacred site” to the Ku Klux Klan and a place where cross-burnings have taken place every Labor Day for more than 50 years, the monument has been the subject of widespread controversy. More recently, during last year’s highly contested gubernatorial race, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams called for its removal. Abrams, who narrowly lost the race, was the first black woman to be nominated by a major party for the governorship.

In April 2016, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan group announced its intentions to host a white power rally at the monument—hence the first iteration of the white-power Rock Stone Mountain Rally—which resulted in clashes among protestors, counterprotesters and various law enforcement agencies.

The lead-up to Rock Stone Mountain Rally II was riddled with internal strife within the ranks of far-right activists. For starters, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association denied the pro-white rally a permit. According to the Atlantic Journal-Constitution, the rally collapsed amid apparent infighting and organizers’ fears for their personal safety.

“The event was undermined by people who were supposed to be on my side,” said John Michael Estes, a white supremacist and one of the main organizers of the rally. “All I can say is short of me showing up by myself, there is no hope of an event.”

Neo-Nazi and Rock Stone Mountain II spokesman Michael Carothers (aka Michael Weaver) circulated a statement to the media officially canceling the rally. The aforementioned Estes, however, then advocated for “guerrilla warfare” and “a leaderless resistance” for his white supremacist cause.  In a Facebook thread, Estes also replied harshly to those critical of him for canceling the rally: “I am entirely willing to take a suicidal stance, and since you think I should, you should do it with me” and, also proclaiming, “I shall die fighting.”

Counterprotesters did not back down and called for an all-day anti-Klan action Saturday. In a statement from the FLOWER (FrontLine Organizations Working to End Racism) Coalition, the group of approximately 50 organizations publicized their plan to protest and “counter the Klan.”

Andrea McDonald, a FLOWER spokesperson, said, “The Stone Mountain Memorial Association made the right decision in denying the Rock Stone Mountain organizers their permit, but since that point, their decision-making process has been opaque and deeply irresponsible. They have failed to publicly alert the surrounding area to the threat posed by violent white supremacists and their planned armed invasion of the park.”

Anti-racist demonstrators showed up Saturday at Stone Mountain Village outside the closed park to protest as planned, while the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center and White Rose anti-fascist group also gathered in Piedmont Park, Atlanta, to address voter suppression and Georgia’s “continued racist policies.”

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