DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Authorities in Dahlonega are bracing themselves for what could be a volatile political rally in nine days.
A white nationalist says he is staging the rally for "patriots" who support President Trump. Counterprotests are almost a certainty.
The man behind the rally, scheduled Sept. 14, says he is a one-time white supremacist who has "mellowed" - but only a bit.
"I’m a fourth generation Klansman. What do you think happened to the robes?" asked Chester Doles, at the end of a Thursday interview with 11Alive News. "They’re still hanging up. They're family heirlooms."
Doles adds that none of the robes are his, but added "carrying on the family tradition is all I can say. But the robes are up. And they’re on the shelf for life."
Doles lives atop a place called Winters Mountain. Although he says he's not a white supremacist, he embraces white nationalism.
"I still believe people of European descent have every right to shake the shackles of white privilege and white guilt that’s been shoved down our children’s throats. It’s total crap," he said.
Doles has notified the city of Dahlonega that he will also occupy a free speech area of the city’s courthouse square for a rally supporting President Trump, Nov. 14. The city says it has a free-speech notification process that doesn't require the granting of a permit.
"We are American nationalists, and we are rising up from coast to coast to say, 'no' to socialism," Doles said. "This is not a normal presidential election. Donald Trump running is the savior for western civilization. I don’t agree with all his foreign policies, but he has put a sense of tribal thinking into Americans again, to where we can vote in a bloc."
He has invited US Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia), who represents the area. Collins responded by saying, “White supremacy and white nationalism have no place in our country, and I will continue to denounce any and all forms of hate. For that reason, I will not be attending the event in Dahlonega on September 14, which has been organized by known associates of hate organizations.”
Doles was unhappy with Collins' response.
"American patriots and veterans will remember Mr. Collins," Doles vowed. "Mr. Collins never said one word about Antifa. This rally has nothing to do with hate. And he knows it."
The rally is likely to draw a crowd - from those both for and against. In April 2018, counterprotesters outnumbered a couple-dozen noisy neo-Nazis who rallied in downtown Newnan. Taxpayers paid for the hundreds of police, who secured it.
"We can’t deny free speech," said Sam Norton, the mayor of Dahlonega. He says the city only requires that the people using the free-speech zone use it "in a safe and civil way."
Now Norton is among those making plans to keep Doles' rally under control.
"Our number one priority is public safety. So, we’re going to do everything we can to make certain our citizens and visitors and even the rally participants are safe," Norton promised.
We spoke by phone with a man, who didn't want to identify himself, who says he’s with Atlanta’s Antifa organization. He says that group is encouraging counterprotesters to show up for the Dahlonega rally.