NEWNAN, Ga. — On the eve of a Neo-Nazi rally, residents of a small Georgia town are planning a downtown festival to draw attention away from the unwanted event – and to show a united front.
The event for April 20, titled #NewnanStrong, is on the agenda for the City of Newnan on Tuesday and organizers say they already have seven musical acts interested in contributing.
The city will still have to approve the festival, but the hope of organizers Nathan Brain and Lori Duncan are that businesses and locals come together to show resilience against the next day's events.
"I think there's a lot of fear and anxiety that's kind of come from this," Brain said.
The National Socialist Movement has been granted a permit to hold the rally from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Greenville Street Park on April 21.
Controversial events like these rallies are often a difficult subject in the small towns where authorities and local government try not to violate free speech rights. But at the same time, the rallies can also bring unwanted crowds and attention to otherwise peaceful towns.
"We're trying to bring everybody together in unity the day before an event that kind of preaches a different story – which is division," Brain said. "We want to turn this negativity into a positive."
That's at least part of the reason locals are hoping to hold an event of a different kind the night before: to show a different side of a city that may unfairly be associated with it less than 24 hours later.
Organizers are also trying to encourage businesses to stay open the night before the Neo-Nazi rally. The hope there, at least to some extent, is to lessen the blow of losing a day's worth of patronage, since some businesses are planning to close up shop during the rally.
"We want there to be a different narrative. We’re a group of people who work toward common goals and we just want that to be the message of Newnan and who we are," Brain said.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the city of Newnan told 11Alive around 4 p.m. April 10 that the permit for the #NewnanStrong rally for April 20 was passed.