On a seasonably pleasant Saturday at Stone Mountain Park, nearly 300 friends, family and members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans celebrated Confederate Memorial Day under the famous carving of Civil War historical figures.

And for the second year in a row, protesters arrived to accuse them of being racists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. But their numbers were significantly smaller: about 20 compared with 100 last year.

The Stone Mountain police this time around set up a “buffer zone” fence that kept protesters more than 50 yards from where the Sons of Confederate Veterans had gathered at the base of mountain.

The protesters, led by activist Jermaine Stubbs, arrived at noon and departed 35 minutes later while SCV keynote speaker John Weaver was defending the South’s right to secede from the Union back in 1860. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project has labeled Weaver as “a racist and anti-Semitic preacher.”

Last year, the protesters came within 15 feet of the event, separated only by fencing and train tracks, partially drowning out the speakers on stage.

“They were screaming obscenities and constantly making noise,” said Martin O’Toole, 72, a spokesman for the SCV Georgia division. “But it didn’t ruin the event. People had a good time.”

Dane Morris, a retired FedEx employee donning an “occupied Tennessee” patch among others on his vest, drove in from Memphis to be there. He said SVC is just a group of people who love history and Southern heritage. He was unperturbed by protesters. “It’s a free country,” he said. “They have a right to protest.”

The event featured bagpipes, a bluegrass band, four cannons and a couple dozen Civil War reenactors.

Brian Morris, one of the protest organizers, wasn’t impressed by the calm nature of the gathering. “They’d wear white sheets and white hoods if they could,” he said. “They are very good at negotiating the world we live in now. But they are not good folks.”

Earlier in the month, the Stone Mountain Action Coalition and SPLC called on the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to cancel the event and deny the permit for them to gather.

Association spokesman John Bankhead said the group has a freedom of speech right to hold the annual gathering. The association has been providing SCV permits for about 20 years. The event ended at 2 p.m., just as the park’s tourist train started running and the nearby mini-golf course was opening up.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Mia Harris of Duluth had come to the park with her 8-year-old son Skylar for a quiet picnic on the vast lawn in front of the monument, nibbling on Publix chicken tenders and potato wedges, playing music and card games. Instead, she watched protesters chant slogans 10 feet from her and in the distance of about a football field away, other Southerners sought to protect what they see as their region’s legacy.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

“I’d rather be on this side than that side,” Harris said.

Skylar looked at the carving and thought one of the men resembled former President Abraham Lincoln. (He was looking at Confederate General Robert E. Lee.)

Harris smiled.

“He’s very curious,” she said. “I know the conversation about this is going to come.”



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