The leader of an all-Black militia told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday that his group of armed members will not show up to confront a coalition of far-right groups planning to hold a rally at Stone Mountain Park Saturday.
The far-right groups vowed to march on Saturday after the Black militia turned out July 4 at the park, home to the nation’s largest shrine to the Confederacy and a lightning rod for protests in recent years.
“We are not — and have no intentions of — interfering with these folks’ right to protest. Their are exercising their constitutional rights just like we did,” said Grand Master Jay, leader of the NFAC. “We’re not going to counter protest. We’re not protesters, we’re not demonstrators. We’re militia. "
Jay, whose real name is John Fitzgerald Johnson, led a column of hundreds of hundreds of black-clad, armed Black men and women in an unannounced march on Stone Mountain last month. Jay said the march was in response to an internet rumor that white nationalists planned to randomly target African Americans on July 4.
During that march, Jay called out the “white militia.”
“We’re here,” he said. “Where you at? We’re in your house. Let’s go.”
Extremist groups, including far-right militia groups known as “Three Percenters,” responded almost immediately by announcing a rally Aug. 15 at the park. The coalition of groups includes neo-Confederates, white supremacists and other far-right groups, nominally led by an Arkansas-based militia called Confederate States III%.
Organizers applied for a permit to hold the rally July 27. The park denied the permit on Aug. 4, citing the potential for violence. Stone Mountain Memorial Association spokesman John Bankhead said the park has not received any other permit applications.
Last year, the park closed down rather than allow a rally organized by white supremacists to go forward.
City Manager ChaQuias Miller-Thornton said the city of Stone Mountain also received a permit request for a rally, but that too was denied because it was received too close to the requested date. Nevertheless, the organizers have continued to claim on social media that they have valid permits from both places.
In Atlanta, a coalition of anti-racist organizations, including the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, but also socialist and antifa groups, are planning a counter demonstration.
Stone Mountain has long been a national flash point for the tensions over race and Confederate imagery, but it has attracted large and contentious rallies since a white supremacist killed nine people in a Black church in Charleston in 2015. States and local government responded to the massacre by removing some Confederate symbols — especially the Confederate battle flag — from public places, prompting protests from groups who claimed the removals were an attempt to “erase” history. The backlash became especially motivating to white supremacist groups, but also to groups like the Three Percenters who view the removals of Confederate monuments as government overreach.
Before the NFAC announced it would not be a Stone Mountain, white supremacists viewed the possible showdown as an opportunity. On a prominent neo-Nazi internet forum, longtime white supremacist leader Billy Roper predicted the rally would “racially awaken a lot of the answering militia” to a coming “civil war.”