As the group was trying to leave the park, which is a memorial to the Confederacy, the fracas involving Taft’s group ensued. The park stayed open, but the attractions were shut down.
In Rome, Ga., about 80 supporters of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement also held a rally Saturday. That event didn't turn violent, but police said two counter-protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct.
At the Stone Mountain rally, however, the counter protesters numbered in the hundreds. Some told The AJC that they did not want to be associated with anything that wasn’t a peaceful counter protest. Some of them began leaving the park when the protest took an ugly turn.
The Confederate flag has become an ever volatile symbol since last year’s massacre of nine African American worshippers in their Charleston, S.C. church by a young white supremacist. In various social media posts before the killings, Dylann Roof, who is charged with murder, had swaddled himself in Confederate flag iconography.
Pro-flag supporters at the Stone Mountain event, however, said the flag symbolized their heritage, not hate. The flag, and its meaning in the shared history of Southern blacks and whites will continue to be debated and, likely, protested.
Stone Mountain has been at the center of the flag debate in Georgia since the Charleston massacre. There has been a campaign to erect a bell tower honoring Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., atop the mountain. It would be in reference to a line from King's "I Have a Dream" speech given at the March on Washington. "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia," King said during the landmark 1963 event.
Some have suggested the bell tower could promote racial healing. Park supporters, however, have said the memorial, by law, is meant to honor the Confederate dead only.