Arrests have already been made in Newnan, Ga., as police gear up for a possible clash between neo-Nazi demonstrators and counter-protesters on Saturday.
Before a rally planned by the neo-Nazi, white supremacist group the National Socialist Movement (NSM) had even begun, police had arrested anti-fascist counter-protesters who were blocking roads and wearing face masks, Fox 5 Atlanta reports. Images posted on Twitter also show heavily armed police officers pointing weapons at seemingly unarmed counter-protesters.
The NSM rally, which was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., got started around 4 p.m., when a small group of NSM members entered Newnan’s Greenville Street Park, according to a Facebook live video posted by Fox 5. The NSM crowd looks to be far outnumbered by counter-protesters, who gathered outside the limits of the park.
Counter-protesters were directed to stay on a nearby street, according to city officials. Members of groups including Antifa, the Democratic Socialists of America and the Worker’s Solidarity Alliance were expected to turn out in opposition of NSM, USA Today reports.
The dueling gatherings bring to mind a similar face-off last year in Charlottesville, Va., which left a woman dead and sparked outrage and protests across the country.
The Newnan Police Department is planning regular patrols before, during and after the demonstrations and is closing nearby roads to traffic. More than 20 public safety departments were consulted leading up to the event, and approximately 400 public safety officers were set to be on hand, according to Newnan officials. Many businesses will also close on Saturday, in an effort to keep people away from the downtown area.
“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our people and their property,” Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows told USA Today.
Meanwhile, many businesses stayed open late on Friday night through an event deemed #NewnanStrong, which was meant to “celebrate the diversity in our community” and make up for revenue that businesses would lose on Saturday. The organizers are also encouraging the citizens of Newnan to counter Saturday’s rally with positivity online and in person.
“Celebrate your neighbors, co-workers, the people that you interact with every week that bring value to your life,” they wrote on their website. “There will be plenty of hate happening in the park on Saturday. Let us overpower that with a flood of community and love on Insta and FB.”
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