Chester Doles, the principal organizer of Saturday’s pro-Trump rally in Dahlonega, waves a flag at the beginning of the rally September 14, 2019. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

The Jolt: There weren’t fine people on both sides in Dahlonega

Something happened in Dahlonega over the weekend. Exactly what that something was, in some law enforcement circles, is apparently open to dispute. Here’s the lede from our AJC colleagues Chris Joyner and Rosalind Bentley:

A rally in downtown Dahlonega organized by white supremacist activists wound down early Saturday amid high heat, a balky public address system and a confusing, at times contradictory, series of speakers.

The rally numbered somewhere between 35 and 50 self-described patriots on one side of the square, countered by three times that number of counterprotesters shouting from behind barricades on the other side. Both groups were outnumbered by 600 state and local law enforcement officers, many sweating out the afternoon heat in full riot gear.

Afterwards, some inferred that the troublemakers were all on one side. Mark Schader, the sheriff of neighboring Chattooga County, posted a Facebook picture of himself and three other armed-to-the-teeth law enforcement officials with this caption: “Doing our part to help our friends in Lumpkin County (Dahlonega) with the antifa protests,” read the post, which was later taken down.

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force noted on Facebook that several agents traveled to Dahlonega Saturday to “help with the antifa protest and patriot rally.”

The event was a white supremacist “pro-Trump” rally that had been in the works for months. The organizer was Chester Doles, a north Georgia resident and former Ku Klux Klan member with decades of experience as a white power activist.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., an ardent defender of President Donald Trump, was originally listed as a speaker. He disavowed the event once these details became clear. 

“White supremacy and white nationalism have no place in our country, and I will continue to denounce any and all forms of hate,” he said earlier this month. “For that reason, I will not be attending the event in Dahlonega on September 14, which has been organized by known associates of hate organizations.”

The language of policing matters. The above descriptions can be used to bolster white supremacist claims that law enforcement is on their side. And indeed, there was some rethinking last night on the part of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force. DeWayne Brown, the unit’s commander, put up a post last night that included this:

“As it seems as the wording of the original post may have caused some confusion, I would like to clear it up. Lumpkin County Sheriff requested assistance for a rally that was given a permit. The rally was called American Patriot Rally, USA. My agency has no control over the name for the rally permit or who gets it.

“As for the antifa protest wording, this is the wording I received but, yes, there were many different counter protesters at the rally. I personally spoke to many, including local residents. So, yes, there were many different persons there for different personal views as counter protesters.

“I nor my agency has an opinion or [gave] support to either side and their views yesterday. We were there to guarantee everyone’s rights and protect everyone involved.”

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Our AJC colleague James Salzer has a take-out on some of the state agencies that would be hit by an immediate 4% budget cut (followed by 6% next year) ordered by Gov. Brian Kemp:

While K-12 school funding and the massive Medicaid program are exempt, agencies on the hook for cuts include the departments of Agriculture, Corrections, Driver Services, Public Health, public defenders, the Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, most of the Department of Natural Resources, and the administration of K-12 schools and colleges.

But this quote from state Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, who chairs the Senate appropriations committee, is what stands out in the piece:

“Whether it is the income tax cut passed last year that started in January or some other factor adversely affecting Georgia’s revenue growth, there is little doubt Georgia has something amiss in its revenue collections.”

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Call it a sign of the changing (political) times: In a lengthy email to supporters last night, the leader of the Lanier Tea Party said the group would stop holding regularly scheduled meetings.

"Attendance over the years has gone from our beginning of over a hundred to now only a handful, and since we have always operated on donations to rent facilities we simply can no longer make that work with the few that were attending," said Mike Scupin, the group's founder. 

His note urged followers to support the Georgia Republican Assembly, a more conservative shadow organization of the state GOP that includes many former tea party members. "The GRA is making progress in our goal to change the thinking of the GOP," Scupin wrote.

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Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico has become the first candidate challenging U.S. Sen. David Perdue to call for the impeachment of Brett Kavanaugh after The New York Times published new information about allegations of sexual misconduct against him. 

Amico wrote that the allegations are “deeply troubling” and that Perdue “put partisan politics ahead of good judgement in supporting him.” She added: “Brett Kavanaugh should be impeached.”

The story quoted Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh, who said she recalled being at a dorm party where Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face, prompting her to swat it away and accidentally touch it.

Republicans are pointing this morning to a similar but separate instance at Yale, in which the NYT belatedly acknowledged that the woman involved has refused to talk about it, and friends have said she doesn’t remember the incident.

It’s worth noting that U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, would have a central role should the House decide to investigate or or commence impeachment hearings against Kavanaugh. Johnson leads the House Judiciary subcommittee that has oversight of the judicial branch, and he previously raised questions about Kavanaugh’s background. 

Earlier this summer, he requested records from Kavanaugh’s five years in the White House Counsel’s Office under President George W. Bush that had largely been kept under wraps during 2018’s highly-charged confirmation fight. We have yet to hear from him since the new Times reporting has surfaced. 

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On his Facebook page, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, has posted a photograph of Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke that contains the caption: “AR-15 salesman of the month.”

Wrote Collins: “I’d have to agree.”

***

Over the weekend, Mark Sanford, Joe Walsh and Bill Weld – three Republican primary challengers to President Donald Trump – published an op-ed in the Washington Post, criticizing the four states that have decided to bypass their presidential primaries and simply assign Trump their convention delegates. The most provocative paragraph:

Across the aisle, the Democratic primary challengers are still engaged in a heated competition of debates, caucuses and primaries to give their voters in every corner of our country a chance to select the best nominee. Do Republicans really want to be the party with a nominating process that more resembles Russia or China than our American tradition?

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Posted this morning: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says that Georgia’s double-header races for U.S. Senate have prompted “very active discussions” of bringing a Democratic presidential debate to Atlanta. Bottoms is a supporter of former Vice President Joe Biden.

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More bad news on the local journalism front: The Newnan Times-Herald has announced it will shift to twice-a-week publishing, on Wednesday and Saturday. The 154-year-old newspaper began as a bi-weekly publication but began daily editions 20 years ago. Editors cited rising newsprint costs and a decline in advertising for the decision. The newspaper will also shift to direct mail for delivery to readers.

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