They cited a state law from the 1950s that was initially intended to go after hooded KKK members.
NEWNAN, Ga. — A heavily militarized police force of some 400 officers aggressively patrolled a small neo-Nazi rally in this city 40 miles southwest of Atlanta on Saturday and arrested about 10 counterprotesters, many for the crime of wearing a mask.
Police officers arrived before the rally began and approached a group of about 50 anti-fascist protesters. They demanded the protesters remove their masks or face arrest. The officers — who wore bulletproof vests and helmets, and carried semi-automatic rifles — cornered the anti-fascist protesters, then grabbed those who were still masked, tossing them to the ground and handcuffing them.
At one point, an officer pointed what seemed to be a modified AR-15 at the faces of counterprotesters, none of whom appeared to be armed.
The lead officer in the arrests said the counterprotesters were breaking a state law regarding masks, likely referring to a seldom-enforced 1951 law originally aimed at combating hooded Ku Klux Klan members. Anti-fascist protesters ― many belonging to chapters of antifa groups, known for sometimes violently confronting white supremacists ― often wear masks to avoid being identified by both law enforcement and neo-Nazis.
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) April 21, 2018
“The irony of enforcing masking laws to prosecute leftists is just incredible,” said Molly, a counterprotester from Charlottesville, Virginia, who traveled to Georgia to protest neo-Nazis. She asked that her last name not be published for fear of retribution. “Those are anti-Klan statutes.”
“And to be roughing up anti-Nazi protesters while handling literal Nazis with kid gloves… it’s absurd,” added Molly, who said she saw one of her friends get arrested Saturday.
The rally in Newnan was the latest, and one of the most pitifully attended, neo-Nazi events to be held in the South since the deadly “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville last August, when a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, killing one person and injuring 19 others.
Certain seemingly innocuous items, including balloons, were not allowed at the rally. But Georgia has an open carry gun law, so people could bring their weapons; HuffPost saw one neo-Nazi and one anti-fascist protester carrying semi-automatic rifles.