On September 14th, Chester Doles ,a 4th generation Klansmen and the former leader of the Georgia National Alliance (a Neo-Nazi group) held a rally in downtown Dahlonega which he claimed was intended to drum up local support for president Trump. Because of Doles' connection to numerous white supremacist groups a counter-protest was planned in advance by the Socialist Coalition of North Georgia, in connection with several local ministers. The two events were kept separate by a large force of police officers as well as physical barriers. The pictures below were taken at both events, which occurred simultaneously on a Saturday afternoon.
I learned via conversation that Doles is currently on probation for punching a woman in the face. He held a rally in Dahlonega two months ago to bring white nationalists to Georgia for a “Unite the Right” style rally, but after the county Sheriff threatened to arrest him on sight if he showed up with the rebel flag or any Nazi symbols, he changed the rally to a "support Trump" event (despite the fact that literally every speaker denounced Trump.) I decided to get up close and personal with him, just to see what would happen. I was one of about three Black people in town, and I was actually surprised that he didn't comment on my presence or take a swing. But I guess being a felon on the third strike will calm anybody down.
After Doles informed the local sheriff that his speakers would arrive armed to defend themselves against "the Antifas", the sheriff added another caveat to his list; no one from Doles' rally would be allowed to enter the area with ammunition. The sheriff also refused to state whether or not he would enforce this requirement on "the Antifas." As a result, a lot of people like this guy showed up wearing second amendment t-shirts instead; this dude’s shirt was particularly bold, declaring himself to be a "Gun-toting Trump supporter." He was pretty hyped during Doles' speech, but the second I turned toward him, he crossed his arms to cover the words. I switched to video to start recording the first speaker, and wouldn't ya know it? All of the sudden his arms were unfolded again. Now that's what I call bravery!
This is Jovanni Valle, AKA "Jovi Valle." He rose to right wing fame in 2017 when a woman ripped off his MAGA hat off at a bar. He grabbed her shoulder and was clearly intent on attacking her, but was stopped by her boyfriend who hit him in the face with a beer bottle. At the Dahlonega rally, he admitted to giving the Nazi salute in public several times, but claimed that this did not mean he was a Nazi. Valle was previously associated with the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, but was disavowed earlier this year, when he attempted to hold a rally in support of a group of Neo-Nazis who are on trial for murder. Valle wasn't informed of the many changes that were made to the event, and instead of giving his prepared remarks, he spent most of his time complaining about the crowd's unwillingness to buck the sheriff's demands.
This counter-protest was organized by a local Methodist minister and advertised by the Socialist Coalition of North Georgia, which is how I found out about the white power event to begin with. Although the Doles claimed that some mysterious faction had bused everyone in, the truth was the exact opposite; most of Doles' speakers were from out of state, whereas everyone from the counter-protest was from the Dahlonega area.
Not everyone is willing or able to attend a protest, so one of the ministers in Dahlonega asked people to tie yellow ribbons around the trees downtown to show their belief that humanity is one family and not a splintered collection of races.
This is my favorite picture from the event. This lady was there the whole time, tirelessly holding this sign for over two hours. I spotted her on the counter-protest side first and then when she found out the Nazi group was on the side, she went over to their area and immediately planted herself in front of Doles' video crew. She yelled, "Lower Prescription Drug Prices!" at them until they walked away from her.
This is Charles Edward Lincoln III. He opened his speech by admitting that he was a disbarred lawyer, and then launched into a breathtaking five-minute rant against the federal reserve, the concept of judges, and, well... America in general. He also claimed that the government invented heroin. Charles is known as a modern defender of "the Lost Cause," the idea that the Confederacy was a noble fight against tyranny, whose defeat doomed America. Although Lincoln isn't nearly as connected to the far right as the other speakers, his work, which involves protecting Confederate monuments, is obviously relevant to the agendas of several right wing hate groups. His speech was so crazy I actually had to sit down for a couple of minutes.
The counter-protest involved an interesting mix of people: locals; ministers from several denominations; an anarchist group connected to Atlanta Antifa; press photographers from all over the country, including Reuters and USA Today; college students; and members of the Democratic Socialists of America who are pictured here, holding signs.
The massive police presence, along with their two-mile radius road block forced most businesses in downtown Dahlonega to close for the day. It also interrupted a wedding which unfortunately started at the exact same time only a block away. One of the few places still open was 19 Degrees North, a seafood restaurant where I took this picture, with a really long lens.
The counter-protesters arrived 30 minutes early, but Doles and company arrived 30 minutes late. It took another 15 minutes before anyone who wasn't a speaker actually showed up. Because of this, it took a while to even figure out where his rally was located. At first, it looked like both rallies were locked in, but then I saw a few other photographers taking pictures of Doles, and a local resident who's also running for mayor came up to me and said, "Get in there!" So I did.
The counter-protest was confined to a "free speech zone" ringed by short metal barricades. The sheriff surrounded the zone with his impromptu army of officers; on the other side was the white supremacist rally.
Although it wasn't stated out loud, the cops clearly gave the impression that only people involved with one of the rallies would be allowed in downtown Dahlonega, and once they saw you on one side, they wouldn't allow you on the other side. Two of the anarchists from the counter-protest decided to test that theory, however, by switching sides. After being allowed through the checkpoint, they immediately began a chant of, "Whose streets? Our streets!" Both were swarmed by cops and handcuffed on the spot. For the rest of the rally they were held in a tank provided by the Cobb County Sheriff, and afterwards, they were charged with inciting a riot.
The Lumpkin County Sheriff assembled a force of about 600 police officers for this rally. Most came from neighboring counties or the metro area, but he also convinced cops to come from as far away as Macon, Columbus, and even Savannah. They spent the majority of the day marching in formation, but one local resident told me that DPD also swept the sewers earlier that morning. The reason for this is that the sheriff assumed that Doles would disobey his orders and show up with a large number of armed neo-Nazis. Although it seemed like overkill in the beginning, Doles stopped the rally 30 minutes early—after showing up almost an hour late—because over half of his speakers were no-shows. As it turns out, the open carry portion of the event was the main draw. Was he really planning a violent, Charlottesville style rally, or did Dahlonega PD massively overact? I guess we're lucky that we didn't have to find out...