A planned white nationalist rally and counter-protests set to kick off near Atlanta on Saturday have the community concerned -- even though officials have prepared additional security measures.
The city of Newnan -- about 40 miles southwest of Georgia's capital -- worked with two-dozen different agencies, including law enforcement, on a plan “to ensure the safety” of residents and businesses during the events, FOX5 Atlanta reported.
City officials have arranged road closures and beefed up security from a number of local, state and federal agencies for the First Amendment demonstration.
“The City of Newnan has a responsibility to protect free speech rights, the individuals and groups that chose to exercise those rights and the broader community in which those rights may be exercised,” the city said in a statement.
“The City of Newnan has a responsibility to protect free speech rights, the individuals and groups that chose to exercise those rights and the broader community in which those rights may be exercised.”
The National Socialist Movement acquired a permit last month to hold a rally and exercise their First Amendment rights at Newnan’s Greenville Street Park, FOX5 reported.
“We don’t come to these events with the intention of starting any sort of violence whatsoever,” Harry Hughes, spokesman for the group, told the station. “It’s hard for us to be responsible for the actions of other people who do come to these things with the intention of becoming violent.”
Businesses were expected to shut down amid the demonstrations, FOX5 reported. Residents also expressed worry over potential “troublemakers” showing up for the events.
“They are not welcome,” resident Samantha Binion said at a news conference this week. “This type of hatred, this type of tyranny, this aggression – I don’t want it in my hometown in Newnan, not in Georgia, not in America, not anywhere.”
“This type of hatred, this type of tyranny, this aggression – I don’t want it in my hometown in Newnan, not in Georgia, not in America, not anywhere.”
Last August, a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., was blamed for three deaths as violence escalated between the nationalist groups and counter-protesters.
The National Socialist Movement’s Burt Colucci told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the group will use its First Amendment rights to talk about “all of the hot button issues” in America, including illegal immigration.
“We need to round (illegal immigrants) up and put them in camps if need be. Like we did the Italians, Germans and Japanese. We are at war with the illegals,” Colucci told the paper.
“We need to round (illegal immigrants) up and put them in camps if need be. Like we did the Italians, Germans and Japanese. We are at war with the illegals.”
Churches within the community have volunteered to hold unity events during the rally to “inspire a message of love,” FOX5 reported. The events will include prayer, music and barbecues.
A prayer event held Friday at Greenville Street Park saw hundreds of people meet to pray, sing and use chalk to write messages of love and unity ahead of the white nationalist rally, the Newnan Times-Herald reported.
Police in a statement reassured local businesses and residents of proper security measures.
“Our strategies are planned to reduce the chance of physical altercations and minimize the risk of personal injury or property damage,” Newman police wrote in a statement to FOX5. “Our goal is to protect the First Amendment Rights of all citizens and visitors to the City of Newnan.”