Ruining Confederate Memorial Day: A Report-Back from Stone Mountain, April 30th

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On the morning of April 30th, 2022 a coalition of civil rights organizations, local community civic action groups, leftist groups, street medics, armed security, antifascists, and other autonomous individuals gathered at a gazebo in downtown Stone Mountain, Georgia. They all shared a common goal: to march on and directly confront the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a racist organization rallying to celebrate “Confederate Memorial Day” at the “Memorial Lawn” inside nearby Stone Mountain Park.

Protesters give the finger to white power leader Sam Dickson

The march began with speeches from the Atlanta NAACP, who reminded local and visiting attendees of the racist history of the carving at Stone Mountain and its long ties to white supremacy. The speeches worked to inspire the crowd and remind them of the importance of the day’s activities. Across the street, a small group of undercover cops gathered while their uniformed counterparts drove by to monitor the group. As the crowd moved into the street, beginning its two-mile march to combat the racist neo-Confederates, one of the aforementioned undercovers made his way into the crowd, though far from unnoticed. The crowd informed those nearby of his true identity, until eventually, he realized his mission had failed, and decided to leave. As the march pushed through the park, the momentum and energy increased as chants rang out in unison amongst the anti-racist coalition. Snacks and water were passed out to anyone who was in need to re-energize from the hot sun.

The group arrived at its destination in an almost cinematic fashion, marching down the front lawn with Stone Mountain directly before them, almost unfathomable in size with its portrait of confederate generals desecrating the rockface. At the base of the mountain were the Sons of Confederate Veterans, some of them in full cosplay garb with period weapons. They fired off a single blank shot from their cannon to drown out the crowd’s chants, to little avail. Protestors were quick to exchange words with the neo-Confederates, getting as close as they could to disrupt the racist gathering. Between the two groups stood a line of Georgia State Patrol police ready to try to grab anyone who hurdled the barricade. The neo-Confederates felt emboldened by this, knowing that the police were there to protect them and their racist and hateful ideology. However, the spirits of those combating the racists were higher than ever, as Martin O’Toole, a known white supremacist who supports segregation, eugenics, and Holocaust denial, had his keynote speech drowned out by chants of “Black lives matter” “We are the winners,” and “This is why your grandkids won’t come see you.” O’Toole struggled to speak over the chants, and his discontent quickly spread throughout the rest of the crowd, who were visibly upset they could not hold their racist gathering in peace.

As the event finished, protestors ensured that the neo-Confederates would not know peace until they had left the community for good. Chants of “Fuck you fascists” drowned out the ear-wrenching sounds of the closing bugles. Once the rally had finished, protestors made their way back to the gazebo, continuing to build upon the energy that had been set in motion by the day’s events. As the day closed out, they felt a sense of pride, knowing that once again, they hadn’t allowed racists to organize in their community without direct confrontation and sending a message both to the neo-Confederates and the Stone Mountain park management that so long as racists are allowed to hold space there, there will always be those willing to show up and combat them.

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We are happy with the way the day went. This was the first time in recent memory that the Sons of Confederate Veterans have been confronted with numbers during their “Confederate Memorial Day” at Stone Mountain Park. While anti-racist counter-protesters were outnumbered two- or three- to one by the SCV, the crowd’s volume and energy made up for this. If Stone Mountain Park permits SCV events next year, anti-racists should return in greater numbers.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans group contained obvious white nationalists, with not just Martin O’Toole as a keynote speaker, but his longtime racist associate Sam Dickson in the SCV crowd. A family with close ties to the white supremacist “Christian Identity” movement provided musical entertainment. Coinciding with the SCV rally, Patriot Front – a racist and fascist organization – placed propaganda in the community of Stone Mountain.

Propaganda from the racist/fascist Patriot Front (on left) removed in Stone Mountain, April 30th

Stone Mountain Park faces a dilemma: it has cited public safety to no longer host explicitly white supremacist events at the Park, after strong opposition to the white power “Rock Stone Mountain” rally of 2016. However, Stone Mountain Park is designated by state law as a Confederate memorial, and therefore feels obliged to host the SCV. The problem is that the SCV is shot through with ideological white supremacists. There is no principled distinction between SCV “heritage” and white supremacist hate. When Stone Mountain Park hosts racist events, they endanger the surrounding community.

It is up to all of us to press on this issue, pushing against the normalization of white supremacy by Stone Mountain Park. For as long as the racist carvings remain on Stone Mountain, the site will serve as a rallying point for white supremacists. And where racists rally, anti-racists must mobilize to meet them. The anti-racist coalition did well on April 30th, we hope future mobilizations will only be bigger, broader, and more powerful.