State Sen. Michael Williams posed with members of the Georgia Security Force III% militia after the Piedmont Park event, where he urged voters to "unite" against Shariah law.
The photograph triggered a torrent of tweets, many of them questioning whether members of the group were flashing a white supremacist sign. Others said the three-finger symbol was the sign of the militia, which holdsr.
Williams, a Cumming entrepreneur, formally entered the governor's race earlier this month on a pro-Trump platform that includes a promise to expand gun rights. His spokesman Seth Weathers said the militia's members asked for a picture after his remarks, and he agreed because they looked like "pro-gun supporters."
"We don't know about the supposed symbolism, only that a bunch of liberal hate groups were online tweeting about it," said Weathers. "This is the stupidest thing in the world - that we are debating whether grown men were supposedly holding their fingers the wrong way during a photo."
The Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups tweeted pictures of Williams with the members of the militia, whose leader Chris Hill sought to block construction of a mosque in Newton County last year. They quickly attracted hundreds of retweets and comments.
The militia, which trains in the north Georgia woods, has received a sweep of attention for involvement in protests against the mosque and in support of the Confederate battle flag. The New York Times in 2016 quoted Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League saying the militia is notable for its acute Islamophobia.
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