Chester Doles, the principal organizer of Saturday’s pro-Trump rally in Dahlonega, has repeatedly described his group as patriotic and peaceful, despite his history as a violent white supremacist.
Doles has two prior felony convictions, both of which earned him stints in federal prison. Now, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned that Doles was arrested on assault charges in a December 2016 melee in a Dahlonega bar that included, according to a witness report, Doles smashing a woman’s head into a wall while calling her a “stupid (expletive) white bitch.”
Doles is currently on supervised probation for that charge, conditions of which require him to “avoid persons or places of disreputable or harmful character.”
The revelations come as the north Georgia tourist town prepares for an unknown number of extreme right-wing groups and individuals and an expected larger group of left-wing counter-demonstrators. While Doles has cloaked the gathering as a way to honor the president, he has hawked it widely on websites and podcasts and on the Russian social media platform VK to an audience of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
GOP officials have disavowed the event.
Doles had been promoting the rally on Facebook, but he said that social media giant deleted his profile and the event page for the rally last week. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment regarding Doles’s account, but lately it has taken more aggressive steps to root out and eliminate white supremacists from the platform.
A barroom brawl
The details of Doles’s December 2016 arrest belie his attempts to paint his rally as a family event standing in opposition of anti-fascist groups he described as “the organization of terror.”
A police report from that night describes Doles as the leader of a group of Hammerskins, a racist skinhead gang with chapters around the nation, who fought with other bar patrons. According to a witness statement, Doles “went wild and began striking people indiscriminately” in response to a patron who said they hated skinheads, but then fled the scene when police were called and had to be tracked down near the campus of the University of North Georgia.
Doles was the only person arrested that night. According to the couple who pressed charges, Doles said if the case went to court he “would have your address and we will come get you.”
It is an open question whether Doles’s attendance at Saturday’s rally would violate the terms of his probation. The slate of announced speakers include white supremacists and white nationalists who, in the eyes of many, would at least be classified as “disreputable.”
Doles is supervised by a private company called Professional Probation Services. A representative in the Lumpkin County office referred comment to the company’s Atlanta headquarters. A representative there said enforcing probation conditions was the responsibility of the local office.
“We just pay the bills here,” she said.
Doles’s probation conditions were signed by Stanley Gunter, chief judge of the Enotah Judicial Circuit. Gunter did not return a call seeking comment.
Doles described the possibility the rally could violate his probation as “a real reach.”
“I guess a liberal or enemy of the right would view it one way,” he said. “Somebody on the right wouldn’t think twice about it. I haven’t heard a word from my probation officer.”
Doles downplayed the 2016 arrest and said he pleaded no contest to the charge to put it behind him.
“The whole case was out of a barroom fight with some left-wing college students who instigated the whole thing,” he said. “They lost the fight.”
He also minimized his relationship with the Hammerskins, saying he knew the men from his work as a personal trainer and a judge of a strongman competition at one of their gatherings. A posting on the neo-Nazi internet forum Stormfront describes Doles as a featured speaker at Hammerskins 2016 gathering.
Town: ‘Hate has no home’
Local and state officials are preparing a robust police presence for the rally. The downtown square, normally filled with tourists this time of year, will be blocked off in a cordon that will extend several blocks in every direction. A barricade will separate the rally participants from the counter-demonstrators and everyone will be searched before they enter.
Because of Georgia’s forgiving gun laws, police cannot forbid participants from legally carrying firearms to the event, but less deadly items, like aerosol cans and pocket knives, will be confiscated.
Jovi Val, a far-right activist scheduled to speak, said violence at the rally is possible. “It’s going to be us versus them, the protesters. And it looks like the police aren’t going to stop that,” he said.
Val, a former member of the far-right Proud Boys, is part of a slate of expected speakers, each of whom bring a history of extremist rhetoric. In January, Val organized a protest in support of James Fields, the man convicted of driving his car into a crowd of demonstrators in Charlottesville two years ago. Demonstrator Heather Heyer was killed in that attack.
Local residents and business owners are striking back at the rally with a campaign to cover the downtown square in gold ribbons, a nod to Dahlonega’s history as a gold rush town. Fliers touting the effort proclaim, “Hate has no home amid our hearts of gold.”
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