Counterprotesters decry racism and hate as they march as a rally billed as a pro-Trump event attracts white nationalists and supremacists Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Dahlonega. (Photo: Rosalind Bentley/AJC)

Dahlonega rally winds down with white supremacists, counterprotesters, police

Billed by organizers as pro-Trump event, Republicans and others have distanced themselves from those involved.

Here are the live updates from our reporters at the rally today in Dahlonega. Return to AJC.com later today for a recap story and more photos. 

FINAL UPDATE 2:35 P.M.:

The rally is effectively over. Participants are mainly walking around chanting “USA.” They have the space at the Dahlonega square for about another 30 minutes.

Some speakers didn’t show. Principal organizer Chester Doles was on the mic for a second time.

- Chris Joyner

"Get hate off our streets" was one of several messages written by Dahlonega residents last night in advance of the rally. (Photo: Rosalind Bentley/AJC)

A little more than 100 counterprotesters — which would be about twice the number of rally attendees — were chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA!”

- Rosalind Bentley

UPDATE 2:25 P.M.: 

Yellow ribbons hang outside businesses and on streetlamps and traffic signs to show solidarity against the rally, said Charlotte Arsenault, minister of Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church in Dahlonega.

Arsenault was one of 10 pastors who helped organize parishioners to  gather as a counterprotest to the event billed as a pro-Trump rally but was organized by people associated with white nationalists and supremacists. 

Many business owners and residents were afraid to attend the counter rally, Arsenault said, so they decided to hang yellow ribbons as a message that Dahlonega doesn’t welcome white supremacy. There are also messages written on the streets by residents last night.

- Rosalind Bentley

Gold ribbons - emblematic of the historic gold rush town - could be seen across Dahlonega on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo: Rosalind Bentley/AJC)

While some critics questioned the pro-Trump billing of the rally,  at least one speaker known for her support for President Donald Trump was among those speaking to the crowd at Saturday afternoon’s event in Dahlonega.

Atlanta internet talk show host Lucretia Hughes brought her pro-Trump, pro-police message to a small but appreciative audience.

- Chris Joyner

Atlanta Internet talk show host Lucretia Hughes brought her pro-Trump, pro-police message to a small but appreciative audience at the Dahlonega rally on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo: Chris Joyner/AJC)

UPDATE 2:05 P.M.:

Before the rally began, it appeared it will depend on an old PA system (complete with cassette player) to be heard. 

But there were problems. However, law enforcement that was there to keep things peaceful also proved helpful after the rally was underway: A police officer stepped in and fixed the PA by plugging in the mic.

Among those at the event: Alt-right celebrity Jovi Val.  He brought his incongruent message to the event that’s supposed to be supporting the U.S. president: “It’s the government that is the enemy of the people.”

- Chris Joyner

Alt-right celebrity Jovi Val is among those at the rally in Dahlonega on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo: Chris Joyner/AJC)

While police and counterprotesters might be more plentiful than those attending the pro-Trump rally, police could be seen earlier apparently detaining two counterprotesters and were holding them near a bus on the back southern edge of the square. 

- Rosalind Bentley

A couple of counterprotesters are detained near a bus on the square in Dahlonega on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo: Rosalind Bentley/AJC)

UPDATE 1:50 P.M.:

The main rally includes about 50 people — with nearly as many journalists covering the attendees.

The square was decorated by locals with gold ribbon and slogans in chalk protesting the rhetoric of hate. 

- Chris Joyner

The square in Dahlonega was decorated by locals with gold ribbon and slogans in chalk on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo: Chris Joyner/AJC)

UPDATE 1:07 P.M.:

On the counterprotesters' side, people are going through a security checkpoint. Law enforcement isn’t letting in any backpacks, bottled water (full or empty). Firearms, however, are allowed but they can’t be loaded with any ammunition. 

Officers are checking people with handheld metal detectors as they enter the South check point.

- Rosalind Bentley

Counterprotesters at the Dahlonega rally had to go through a security checkpoint. Among their signs was one like this with a quote against hate attributed to the late writer Maya Angelou. (Photo: Rosalind Bentley/AJC)

Charles Lincoln, a rally speaker and white nationalist, flew in from Florida. “I guess I specialize in under-attended events,”  he said as the crowd appeared sparse before it was set to begin. 

Lincoln was part of a small group of right-wing protesters in Washington, D.C., last year on the second anniversary of the Charlottesville rally.

- Chris Joyner

Charles Lincoln, speaker and white nationalist. (Photo: Chris Joyner/AJC)

UPDATE 12:35 P.M.:

Rally organizer Chester Doles met with about a dozen family members and supporters a half-hour before the rally to discuss strategy and hand out Trump flags. The event has been billed as a rally to show support for President Donald Trump, but Dahlonega officials and Republicans have been wary of the white nationalists’ and supremacists’ ties to the event. 

Police officials say there are “500 boots on the ground,” from several statewide agencies today.

- Chris Joyner and Rosalind Bentley

Rally organizer Chester Doles readies for the rally in downtown Dahlonega on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Photo: Chris Joyner/AJC)

UPDATE 12:25 P.M.:

Some counterprotesters had announced their plan to “occupy” the rally spot reserved by the white supremacist-led group, but with less than an hour to go before the event, the vast majority of people on the square were police and media.

- Chris Joyner

Small numbers of onlookers have arrived on the square in Dahlonega to the area reserved for counterdemonstrators. (Photo: Chris Joyner/AJC)

UPDATE 12:10 P.M.:

Law enforcement drones buzzed above the square. 

Most streets downtown were empty of shoppers and tourists, who would normally visit the historic Georgia town on a Saturday afternoon.

- Rosalind Bentley

UPDATE 11:57 A.M.: 

A phalanx of law enforcement officers in riot gear are marching and chanting, “Fired up, fired up!” around the square in downtown Dahlonega. 

All downtown businesses are closed for the afternoon. 

At the historic Smith House bed and breakfast, the basement lobby area was blocked off — even to guests. 

A smattering of onlookers including a couple wearing Sons of Confederate Veterans vests watched and took pictures of the marching officers. Metal barricades surrounded most of the blocks immediately adjacent to the Dahlonega Gold Museum. 

The visitors’ center, where the rally is expected to occur, is cordoned off by short, interlocking metal barricades. By the size of the area reserved, the city is not expecting a large crowd for the rally. 

More than 100 police officers, many in riot gear, are on the square.

- Rosalind Bentley and Chris Joyner

The North Georgia tourist town of Dahlonega is preparing to host a pro-Trump rally on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, organized by a local white supremacist. (Photo: Chris Joyner/AJC)

ORIGINAL STORY:

State and local law enforcement have prepared for a gathering in downtown Dahlonega today that was organized by white supremacists who have advertised it as a rally in support of President Donald Trump.

The organizer is Chester Doles, a North Georgia resident with decades of experience as a white power activist. Doles is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and was an organizer for the National Alliance, a mostly defunct white supremacist group with deeply anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant beliefs.

» RELATED: North Georgia town braces for rally

» RELATED: Rally organizer on probation for 2016 assault in local bar

Among those speaking out against the event is U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., who represents the region.

“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 last week. “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 rally is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on the downtown square. The chance of rain at that time is forecast for 15% but increases as the afternoon goes on. 

Check back here today for updates from our AJC reporters and photographer in Dahlonega.

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