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Daniel Funke

Caravans of Confederate flag supporters arrive for rally at Stone Mountain

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The early arriving crowd at Stone Mountain Park. (CHRIS JOYNER / CHRIS.JOYNER@AJC.COM

The early arriving crowd at Stone Mountain Park. (CHRIS JOYNER / CHRIS.JOYNER@AJC.COM

Around 100 people had already arrived at Stone Mountain Park for a rally celebrating the Confederate flag by around 9:45 a.m. Saturday, and traffic on nearby I-285 and U.S. 78 was backed up for miles.

Caravans from all over Georgia bore unwavering rebel flags as they streamed into the park’s Yellow Daisy parking lot for the day-long event, which approximately 1,000 people are expected to attend, according to a Facebook event titled “Ga. State Flag Rally.” The event page includes instructions for people who plan to attend the rally, such as meeting times and locations, and lists of rules like these:

These rules are simple logical and easy to follow!

1.) NO racial slurs or offensive remarks
2.) NO alcohol, we do know its illegal and that will be opportunity for tickets/arrests
3.) NO taunting other vehicles, flipping other people off during the ride
4.) NO burning any flags of any type regardless of which flag
5.) STAY peaceful, which means NO violence

Remember there will be people everywhere! Possibly media and cameras, ONE piece of negativity and that will be what goes Viral and that is what we will be remembered for. This is to show our support BC we care about where we live and grew up, lets keep this Clean and Peaceful! Absolutely ZERO tolerance on these rules, if you don’t think you can follow don’t show up. There will be plenty others there who can follow the rules. See y’all there, thank you and God Bless!

The rally was organized by JT Nicholson, a Thomaston native who started a Facebook page titled “CSA Flag Rally 2015” that has nearly 6,000 likes. According to the event page, several Georgia counties are participating in the event.

“So far about 40 counties doing this! Amazing y’all! God is good ain’t he?!” it reads.

Cars and trucks bearing license plates from a variety of counties parked side-by-side in the lot amid a sea of Confederate flags, broken up periodically by the American flag.

Confederate flag enthusiasts congregate in the Yellow Daisy parking lot at Stone Mountain Park on Saturday, August 1, 2015. DANIEL FUNKE / DANIEL.FUNKE@COXINC.COM

Confederate flag enthusiasts congregate in the Yellow Daisy parking lot at Stone Mountain Park on Saturday, August 1, 2015. DANIEL FUNKE / DANIEL.FUNKE@COXINC.COM

There was significant law enforcement presence at the park as caravans began arriving early Saturday. Stone Mountain Park spokesman John Bankhead said security will be heightened at the event.

“We’re treating it like the Fourth of July,” he said.

The rally comes days after Gov. Nathan Deal told Atlanta lawmakers he opposes any makeover to Stone Mountain’s carving, which includes the faces of three Confederate generals, and weeks after the rebel flag was taken down at the South Carolina Statehouse.

Cars bearing Confederate flags and slogans like "Heritage Not Hate" drive down I-285 en route to Stone Mountain Park. (TAMMY JOYNER / L'TANYA.JOYNER@AJC.COM)

Cars bearing Confederate flags and slogans like “Heritage Not Hate” drive down I-285 en route to Stone Mountain Park. (TAMMY JOYNER / L’TANYA.JOYNER@AJC.COM)

Controversy surrounding the Civil War emblem began in June after the fatal shooting of nine people at an African American church in Charleston. A counter-protest in solidarity with victims, to which around 150 people had RSVP’ed as of Friday night, will be held at 11:30 a.m.

Please return to the AJC Latest News blog for up-to-the-minute updates. Check AJC.com throughout the day for the full story.

>>Rebel flag about ‘heritage not hate,’ organizers  say

>>‘They will not erase our history’

>>Confederate flag supporters claim harassment

>>Stone Mountain Park officials prep for all-day Confederate flag rally

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