Update 5/1/2018: According to new information released in response to a public records request, it appears that the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office also relied on the militia sympathizer’s scare story when planning for April 21. See Unicorn Riot’s story here.
According to the City of Newnan, police relied on a fantasy written by an “anti-antifa” sympathizer of the far-Right militia movement when deciding on a mammoth police presence against anti-Nazi protesters on April 21.
Last week, The Times-Herald – Newnan, Georgia’s main paper – published the story “Police clarify arrests, heavy presence during rally.” The Times-Herald article attempts to push back against media coverage of the militarized police in Newnan on April 21st, who charged an anti-racist crowd and pointed guns at protesters. Law enforcement now tries to build a narrative around “agitators” within the anti-racist crowd. The Times-Herald published Newnan Police Department and Coweta County Sheriff’s Office claims without any counterpoint from anti-racists or non-police observers.
We will not discuss police claims in The Times-Herald point-by-point. Copwatch of East Atlanta has already published a piece describing their experience in Newnan and debunking the police narrative. Please read the Copwatch piece. Before we discuss the most disturbing aspect of police claims to The Times-Herald, here are a few additional notes:
- Police provide information on ten people arrested and charged on April 21. They omit two additional people who were seized from the anti-racist protest and brought to jail, only to be released without charge. In addition, police do not mention the Copwatch observer who was singled out by militarized police and thrown to the sidewalk, suffering an injury (contrary to police claims that nobody was injured.) The brutalized Copwatch observer was released without charge once the protest crowd had moved on.
- Discussing anti-racist protesters, Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager stated: “They came here with a purpose […] They came here to antagonize, take control of our community and incite fear.” In contrast, both Yeager as well as Deputy Chief of Newnan Police Mark Cooper used their interviews to draw attention to how neo-Nazis followed the law.
- Deputy Chief Cooper claims that the National Socialist Movement (NSM) was allowed flags at its rally because “flags were allowed if they were attached to PVC poles.” In fact, the list of restricted items released by the City the day before the NSM’s rally explicitly mentions “poles” as one of the items that “will not be allowed inside the park […] by any parties.” If there were different standards for the police-controlled protest pen and the park area used by neo-Nazis, then it is difficult to argue there was no double standard, as Deputy Chief Cooper attempted.
- The Times-Herald describes journalist Jack Smith IV as a “reporter with suspected Antifa ties” when trying to explain why the police removed him from the NSM rally after the Nazis complained. The Times-Herald does not make clear whether the “Antifa ties” claim is from the newspaper itself, from law enforcement, or just from Nazis. Smith disputes the characterization. Police reportedly justified their actions by claiming “it was in the rental agreement.”
The most surprising claim in The Times-Herald piece, though, comes from Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows. According to The Times-Herald, there were over 800 members of law enforcement from various agencies in Newnan (a hundred more than previous numbers reported by the media.) The paper continues:
[Police Chief “Buster”] Meadows said the large police presence during the event was the result of expecting 8,000 – 12,000 protestors, based on information reportedly released by Antifa.
On the other hand, the #NoNaziNewnan Coalition, who were the most vocal anti-racist protest organizers, had stated before the 21st that they expected “hundreds.” At the end of the day, over a hundred joined an anti-racist presence outside the state-approved protest pen, while several hundred protested inside that pen.
Curious about the discrepancy between police “information” and real numbers, the author of the “Restoring the Honor” blog made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Newnan Police Department about their sources. The request was responded to by Newnan City Clerk Della Hill, who attached a document and stated: “It is my understanding this was all of the information available on the numbers release.”
As already covered on “Restoring the Honor,” the .pdf supplied by the City of Newnan in justifying its expectation of “8,000 – 12,000 protesters” has two elements. The first element is a Facebook post by “Valdosta Antifa” dated April 20 – the day before the Nazi rally and counter-protests. The second element is a page-long document titled “Last word on the nazis/communist standoff.” In the version supplied by the City of Newnan, the “last word” writing is undated and unattributed. As we will discuss below, it was originally posted to Facebook on the evening of Thursday, April 19.
According to The Newnan Times-Herald, “Police Chief Douglas ‘Buster’ Meadows said preparation for the [April 21] event was a 6-week task.” We are therefore supposed to believe that despite lengthy planning by police, all the “information available on […] numbers” for counter-protesters (as City Clerk Hill put it) was received less than 48 hours before anti-racist protest commenced.
But it’s worse than that. We’ve already had our say about Valdosta Antifa, but that project’s Facebook post of Friday, April 20th was clearly a joke. For example, the Valdosta Antifa post not only stated that “There will be 10,000” anti-racist protesters,” but also claimed that “We will be erecting statues of Pauly Shore” and “We are there [in Newnan] to turn the fricken frogs gay.” Several of the Facebook post’s references only make sense as a satirical response to the “Last word on the nazis/communist standoff” text also treated as a source by the City of Newnan. It is stunning if this is the “information […] released by Antifa” and treated as a credible source by Police Chief Meadows.
But it’s worse again. We already mentioned the “Last word on the nazis/communist standoff” writing in our report on April 21st in Newnan. In that report, we cited the text as an example of scare stories about anti-racist protest which circulated as April 21st approached. Both we and Restoring the Honor blog have noted that the “last word” writing was spread around on the Facebook page of the III% Security Force, a far-Right militia. We can now reveal that the “last word” text was initially composed by a Newnan resident with seeming far-Right sympathies on the evening of April 19. The original post by Clay Perry received over 500 shares on Facebook.
Clay Perry has, by his own admission, “anti-antifa” allegiances. His Facebook page shows that he sympathizes with the Three Percent “Patriot” movement, since several of Perry’s posts include “III” insignia. Perry provided no sources when he claimed that in Charlottesville, Virginia and other cities where “Antifa” members have appeared, the only businesses that “weren’t damaged in the area of these rampages were protected by armed business owners standing watch.” That is a particularly ugly lie from Perry, considering Charlottesville is where dozens of anti-racists were injured, and one died, when a white supremacist performed an ISIS-style vehicular attack against them. Clay Perry wrote last year that “actual nazis & white supremacists […] were the vast minority of rally attendees” at August’s bloody “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Such statements give some idea about Perry’s political sympathies. Police in Newnan apparently used this person’s writing as their source for expecting up to 12,000 anti-racist protesters on April 21.
If Newnan police used a fantasy penned by a far-Right “anti-antifa” activist to estimate “antifa” numbers, this is highly disturbing. It would show that Newnan Police treated a highly biased far-Right source as credible, while these police drew up plans against anti-racists. It is difficult to rule out the possibility that Newnan police used Perry’s alarmist Facebook post not only to overestimate counter-protest numbers, but also to assess anti-racist planning and intent. In a mobilization involving large numbers of other agencies, it is possible that Clay Perry’s far-Right scare story was used by law enforcement groups beyond the Newnan Police Department itself. Certainly, Newnan Police Chief “Buster” Meadows cited the inflated numbers to justify the entire mobilization of militarized police in Newnan, not just deploying his own officers.
To recap: Newnan Police Chief Meadows claimed that the April 21st mobilization of over 800 officers was due to “information reportedly released by Antifa” about numbers. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the City provided its sources regarding numbers as a satirical post on Facebook and a piece of fantasy about planned “Antifa” rampages. We have revealed that the original author of the fantasy is a far-Right resident of Newnan who identifies as “anti-antifa” and sympathizes with the far-Right militia movement. Newnan authorities seemingly accepted this person’s words as credible while they planned against anti-racist protest in the city.