Breaking News
More () »

Confederate Memorial Day event planned at Stone Mountain raises opposition

The Sons of Confederate Veterans group revived the yearly event last year after it was interrupted in 2021 due to COVID.

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — A planned observation of Confederate Memorial Day at Stone Mountain Park has again raised opposition from local groups.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans group revived the yearly event last year after it was interrupted in 2021 due to COVID. It was the first such event since a tense daylong standoff in August 2020 between white nationalists and neo-Confederates who'd gathered for a "Defend Stone Mountain" rally and hundreds of counter-protesters.

Despite calls for its permit to be revoked by groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the 2022 Confederate Memorial Day event was allowed to go forward by the state authority that runs Stone Mountain Park.

RELATED: Neo-Confederate group met in Stone Mountain by counterprotesters at Confederate Memorial Day observation

That event saw a robust counterprotest, though a far less combustible situation than the street demonstrations in 2020 as officers kept both sides separated at the park.

Now, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are planning for the 2023 event and local groups are again calling for it to be canceled.

The event is slated for Saturday at the park, and the keynote speaker is slated to be Pastor John Weaver. He's described by the SPLC as a "religious mainstay of the racist neo-Confederate movement and a man who has recently become a leading proponent of training Christians for armed battle."

Ahead of the event, the Stone Mountain Action Coalition - which has opposed the previous white nationalist and neo-Confederate gatherings at the park and in the city - has said there's "no place for an event like this at a public, state-owned, taxpayer supported park."

They have called on the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to rescind the permit for Saturday.

"Not only is the event a threat to public safety, it is highly offensive to the vast majority of regular Park visitors, most of whom come from the Atlanta area and in particular from the majority-Black neighborhoods that surround the Park," the group said in a release.

They added: "Further, the extra police and military presence required for the event will likely wind up being billed to Georgia taxpayers. While Georgia state law mandates (for now) that the Park function as a memorial to the Confederacy it does not require that Park leadership allow specific events. Canceling the planned Confederate Memorial Day ceremony is well within the power of the SMMA board and Park management and, as noted above, has been done before."

Last year Martin O'Toole, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and also the leader the openly white nationalist Charles Martel Society, gave the keynote speech.

A coalition of groups including the Georgia NAACP, Democratic Socialists of America and The People's Uprising and counterdemonstrators associated with the antifascist movement were on hand in protest.

11Alive's Karys Belger spoke to one counterprotester, Pastor Bryan Pittman, who said, "As you can see, people are really tired of dealing with things that should be naturally intolerable."

"These are people who owned slaves, who stood for things that we realize should have been intolerable and never stood for," he said of his objections to memorializing Confederate soldiers. "We do not memorialize people who damaged people, who erased cultures, who erased families."


Before You Leave, Check This Out