‘Remove your mask, or you will be arrested’
Greg Bluestein reports: Faced with hundreds of demonstrators rallying against a crowd of neo-Nazis in Newnan, local and state authorities turned to a little-known Georgia law adopted in 1951 to combat the Ku Klux Klan.
The law, which makes it illegal to wear a mask at most public events, was cited in several of the arrests of counterdemonstrators who joined a protest Saturday against white supremacists.
And the irony was not lost upon the organizers of the counterdemonstration, who were fuming Sunday that a law aimed at weakening white supremacists was used to arrest protesters who opposed a neo-Nazi rally.
“They were trying to stop us, and we were trying to dial down the racist stuff,” said Jeremy Ortega, a 19-year-old who was among the counterprotesters charged with a misdemeanor for wearing a mask.
He said many of the demonstrators wore masks to avoid being identified and threatened by white power groups.
“The law, which makes it illegal to wear a mask at most public events, was cited in several of the arrests of counterdemonstrators who joined a protest Saturday against white supremacists.”
“We were peacefully protesting, yet they put guns in our faces and told us to take our masks off,” said Ortega, who added that he is considering filing a civil lawsuit. “It made no sense.”
State and local authorities did not comment on specific allegations of abuse on Sunday. But Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the overwhelming security – nearly 700 law enforcement officers were on hand – helped prevent the clashes from escalating.
“Making arrests in a volatile situation is never going to be pretty,” Keenan said.
No one from the white supremacist group was arrested on Saturday, and they largely avoided confrontations with police or the counterdemonstration group. The two dozen white supremacists who attended the rally were separated from the group by an 8-foot fence – and hundreds of armed officers.
‘Remove your mask’
On Sunday, a coalition of counterprotest groups planned a vigil at the Coweta County Jail to criticize what they said was excessive violence by police.
The Huffington Post reported that a contingent of officers approached a group of 50 counterdemonstrators before the rally and demanded they remove their masks or face arrests. The news outlet wrote that officers then “grabbed those who were still masked, tossing them to the ground and handcuffing them.” Read the rest of this entry »