A massive rally in support of the Confederate flag was met with a smaller group of protesters against it.
Several different groups congregated on the edges of the Yellow Daisy parking lot at Stone Mountain Park on Saturday in protest of the event, during which several hundred people parked their Confederate flag-adorned cars and trucks for the afternoon.
Candice D., who declined to give her last name, and friend Tyler Jackson were among them. Both women got into verbal altercations following one group’s hour-long dispute with rally-goers, in which shouting matches and threats were frequently exchanged.
Jackson said the arguing protestors were saying the same things she advocates for, only louder and more enticing.
“We’ve been out here for about three hours and they came out here saying the same thing we did, just a little bit louder,” she said. “And the mood changed with everything. People I was shaking hands with, got offered food and water from, is now looking at me with hate in their eyes. It’s weird how you flip the switch like that.”
The incident, which can be watched on Periscope here, was diffused by police, who created a barrier to prevent any fights from breaking out. Candice D. and Jackson, both African American women, said the rally attendees were open and amicable with them until one anti-Confederate flag organizer started the verbal dispute.
“I’m more than willing to listen to a smart person argue or just represent their complaint,” Candice D. said. “But the same arguments we’ve been having with people … they came out here and said the same thing, just a little bit louder. And it got shaken.”
The dispute stopped once rally-goers began hiking up Stone Mountain, after which the loudest protestors exited the parking lot with several police officers.
At the other end of the parking lot was Charlie Anderson, a member of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Although many rally organizers said the Confederate flag is an emblem of their southern heritage, he said it is a symbol of racism and oppression dating back to the Civil War.
“The heritage that they’re talking about is the heritage of the oppression of black people, it’s the heritage of slavery and it continues to this day,” Anderson said. “People with a conscious need to stand up against it.”
While Anderson stood on the outskirts of the parking lot, several rally-goers began shouting at him and his fellow protestors, causing arguments about the rebel flag’s purpose and intent.
Candice D. said the flag in and of itself doesn’t make her feel oppressed, but rather when people use it to evoke racist sentiments from the past.
“No flag can make me feel any differently — it’s a piece of cloth,” she said. “But it’s a matter of when you are shouting ‘Southern pride, southern pride, southern pride’ … I understand what they’re saying as far as veterans, respecting veterans and respecting what they fought for, but also don’t forget what’s the other side that they fought for.”