Heavily armed US police forces have reportedly arrested anti-fascist counter-protesters wearing masks as they gathered in city of Newnan in Georgia to demonstrate against a rally by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.
Hundreds of counter-protesters showed up on Saturday to oppose and speak out against a far-right hate group known as the National Social Movement (NSM), which sponsored the annual rally to celebrate Adolph Hitler’s birth anniversary, local media reported.
Hundreds of anti-riot police officers were also deployed in the small city to prevent clashes between the two groups.
At the outset of the counter-demonstration, a Huffington Post reporter tweeted a video clip showing police officers in riot gear tackling and detaining several protesters apparently for wearing masks. This is while anti-fascist activists have donned masked in past rallies against white supremacist forces.
Local press reports also reported that counter-protesters were placed face down on the street as police forces moved members of the media away from the area and blocked the view with vans.
The protest rally was reportedly one of the largest white nationalist events since last August’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which a woman was killed after a man drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist counter-protesters.
Although the NSM told police that it expects 50 to 100 supporters to turnout for their rally, only a few dozen showed up Saturday afternoon, confronted by hundreds of anti-fascist protesters.
In a loud, rambling speech at the rally, NSM leader Jeff Schoep claimed his group represents “the vanguard of the white race.” He was further quoted in the national USA Today newspaper as saying, “we will not back down. We will stand against the tyranny of the far left.”
Additionally, the racist group’s “chief of staff” Burt Colucci also told the local Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “we will be hitting on all of the hot-button issues,” adding: “If it is controversial in America, we gonna talk about it.”
Demanding a crackdown on "illegal immigration" as one hot topic, he further emphasized, “We need to round them up and put them in camps if need be, like we did the Italians, Germans and Japanese. We are at war with the illegals.”
Meanwhile, local residents and politicians were wary of a repeat of clashes between hundreds of white nationalists, and their supporters, and counter-demonstrators at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville last August.