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LIVE UPDATES: Neo-Nazi rally met by counterprotesters, police in Newnan

5:15 P.M.: As the neo-Nazi demonstration began wrapping up shortly after 5 p.m, the counterprotesters began shouting, “Shut it down” and “Time’s up, go home.” The drumbeat grew louder as the demonstration lingered past its 5 p.m. deadline.

» RELATED: How social media reacted

The National Socialist Movement, a far-right hate group, gathered in Newnan, Ga., on Saturday. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

4:55 P.M.: National Socialist Movement leader Jeff Schoep, in a loud, rambling speech, claimed his group represents “the vanguard of the white race.” 

The far-right hate group demonstrated in the Greenville Street Park, a few blocks from Newnan’s court square. The group’s application anticipated between 50 and 100 people, but it appeared Saturday that only a couple of dozen of them showed up. 

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The counterprotesters, however, appeared to number in the hundreds.

- Chris Joyner

A neo-Nazi rally in Newnan on Saturday brought out counterprotesters and law enforcement agencies. Officers arrested some of those who were there to demonstrate against the neo-Nazis. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

4:45 P.M.: As the small contingent of neo-Nazis held its demonstration in Greenville Street Park, the hundreds of counterprotesters – kept separated by an 8-foot fence and dozens of rifle-carrying police – booed the group and shouted, “You lost, get over it,” “Newnan strong,” and “Shame on you!”

- Leon Stafford

A counterprotester kneels with hands up while facing law enforcement officers Saturday in Newnan, Ga., as neo-Nazis demonstrated. Some counterprotesters were arrested at the event. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

4:10 P.M.: Newnan is the site of a massive police presence today. GBI Director Vernon Keenan is the city today, and he said a key concern is the large number of counterprotesters. Right now, law enforcement agencies are keeping them contained.

- Chris Joyner

Newnan residents Mildred Beadles  (left) and Vanessa Cleveland say the costs associated with neo-Nazis coming to their city shouldn’t fall to the taxpayers but be the responsibility of the neo-Nazis. (LEON STAFFORD / AJC)

4 P.M.: Newnan residents Mildred Beadles and Vanessa Cleveland said demonstrators should pay for the cost of police, lost business for downtown merchants and the inconvenience of closures across the small south metro Atlanta community. 

“This shouldn’t come out of the pockets of taxpayers like me,” Beadles said. “If they want to do this, they should pay for it. Our police are not focused on us because of them. That should not be allowed.” 

Beadles, who followed a procession of counter protesters, said she wanted to follow the lead of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and show “love to those filled with hate. 

“Today I come in peace to see what’s going on,” she said. “Is there that much hate in America?”

- Leon Stafford

Dee Wyman of Marietta participates in a counterprotest in Newnan on Saturday. (LEON STAFFORD /AJC)

3:55 P.M.: Dee Wyman traveled from Marietta to stand against what she sees as hatred that she says is on the rise. She is a believer in the First Amendment and supports the right to protest, but thinks it’s sad that speech is used to support hate.  

“This is not right,” she said. “It’s important that everyone stand up. I don’t understand why they have so much hate for people they even don’t know anything about.”  She said it was important for her to participate because the nation will only come together if people stand up.  “We all have to do something,” she said. “If we just sit back, nothing is going to change.”

- Leon Stafford

3:40 P.M.: Anti-fascist demonstrators, also knows as Antifa, appear to be among the counterprotesters and residents rallying against the neo-Nazis. As law enforcement officers work to keep the groups of marchers orderly, those taking part in the rally and the counterdemonstrations face checkpoints.

- Chris Joyner

A neo-Nazi rally scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Newnan, Ga., was met by a large contigent of counterprotesters and law enforcement officers. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)
An apparent participant in the neo-Nazi rally is flanked by media and law enforcement officers at the start of the event Saturday in Newnan, Ga. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

3:02 P.M.: The scene appears loud and tense but contained as counterprotesters also are gathering for the start of the neo-Nazi rally. Law enforcement officers were seen in riot gear outside the Coweta County Courthouse.

- Chris Joyner

Newnan police arrested several counterprotesters before the start of the neo-Nazi rally.  (CHRIS JOYNER / AJC)

2:35 P.M.: Newnan Police Department officers have arrested several counterprotesters. People with their group say they were arrested for wearing masks. The police have  moved the press away and blocked the view with vans. Counterprotesters have moved out south toward the square/checkpoint area. 

- Chris Joyner

2:30 P.M.: The march is officially scheduled to begin in a half-hour. Newnan, mindful of the violence last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, is going into full defense mode for a neo-Nazi rally planned in the Georgia city today.

“Fascism has no place in this town,” said Newnan resident Brad Strange, who was on the square with wife Ashley and their three kids. (CHRIS JOYNER / AJC)

2:05 P.M.: Taking a stand against the hate promoted by the marchers coming into town Saturday, local residents turned out in force Friday night, filling shops and restaurants. Children decorated Greenville Park with chalk drawings.

Among the press contingent in Newnan are documentary filmmakers. 

- Chris Joyner

Newnan residents (from left) Jenny Lewis, Jack McBride and Chris McBride show their anti-hate signs ahead of Saturday’s planned rally by neo-Nazis. (LEON STAFFORD / AJC)

1:50 P.M.: Newnan residents Jack McBride, Jenny Lewis, Jane Brown and Chris McBride want the world to know hate is not a part of their community. 

The group sat along a stone wall on a quiet street just blocks from the site of Saturday’s gathering, waving at passers-by, holding up a “Strong Together” sign and trying to make sure that their community is not associated with divisiveness. 

“We don’t want this in our town,” Lewis said as cars honked in support of her sign. “This is a wonderful place to live.” 

Jack McBride said the community is diverse racially, politically, economically and religiously, but has little tolerance for the views of groups supporting Nazi sentiment. 

“We have all the problems of a small Southern town socially, but what they espouse is not who we are,” he said. “We don’t know why they’re here.”

- Leon Stafford

1:15 P.M.: Hasco Craver, Newnan assistant city manager, said the city is “proud of the overwhelming support we have received from nearby law enforcement agencies (and) citizens and business owners.” 

The first press conference was just held at Coweta County Justice Center. The city plans to hold updates every half- hour.

More than 40 law enforcement agencies are on hand as the city prepares for the arrival of the National Socialist Movement members and a separate contingent of counterprotesters. 

The Georgia Department of Corrections has four prisoner transport buses on hand in case of mass arrests.

- Chris Joyner

Newnan officials hold their first press conference of the day ahead of Saturday’s planned rally by neo-Nazis.  (CHRIS JOYNER / AJC)

EARLIER STORY:

The National Socialist Movement, a far-right hate group that celebrates Adolf Hitler’s birthday, will hold a rally at a park in downtown Newnan on Saturday afternoon. The neo-Nazis expect a turnout of 50 to 100. But they’ll also draw anti-fascist demonstrators as well as hundreds of police officers.

City officials said they had no choice but to grant a permit to the group. They said they would close the streets around Greenville Street Park, just a few blocks from Newnan’s court square, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. The rally is to begin at 3 p.m. Police urged people to stay away from the gathering.

Barricades and fencing are now in place around a city park in Newnan as police prepare for Saturday’s rally by the Michigan-based neo-Nazi group, Channel 2 Action News reported Friday afternoon. City workers spent much of Thursday putting up the fences and laying out the barricades.

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

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