The city of Newnan in Georgia is bracing for the annual meeting of white supremacist group the Nationalist Socialist Movement (NSM), which will mark the birthday of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler on Friday and march through the town center on Saturday.
Newnan authorities expect 50-100 people to attend the planned event. Keen to avoid the deadly incident and clashes of the "United the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August—in which the NSM participated—the police have mobilized around 400 officers from local, state and federal agencies to guarantee public order after consulting with 20 law enforcement agencies.
The Michigan-based NSM is listed in the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center database on hate groups as one of the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S. Michael Hill, the leader of white supremacist, neo-Confederate group League of the South, will also speak at the NSM meeting.
In an attempt to isolate the the rally held at Greenville Street Park, authorities will close down the surrounding area in the morning, the City of Newnan wrote in a post on its Facebook page answering some Frequently Asked Questions about the rally, scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Counter-protesters, including some Georgia-based Antifa groups, will have a designated area along the street and police are erecting fences and barricades to separate the demonstrators, CBS46 reported.
Newnan Police Chief D.L. “Buster” Meadows told residents to stay clear of the area to avoid showing support for either group. "Neither one of these groups represent who we are and what we stand for,” he told local news outlet The Newnan Times-Herald.
But many Newnan residents are furious about the city authorizing the march without consulting with the local community and business owners, many of whom have chosen to close down for the day fearing outbursts of violence.
As expenses for the rally are shouldered by the town authorities, residents also wondered how much it would cost them to "cover this embarassment to the county," as one reply to the city of Newnan's Facebook post read. In October, hundreds of counter-protesters gathered on the streets of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to oppose a "White Lives Matter" rally. According to Meadows, that event cost the city around $250,000.
Residents are showing opposition to the rally in different ways. A petition on Change.org was set up five days ago to demand an injunction to stop the rally, while the hashtag #NewnanStrong is circulating on social media to promote a public festival scheduled for Friday evening meant for the community to come together and support each other.
Earlier this month, Republican Congressman Drew Ferguson of Georgia condemned the rally in a statement. “Every citizen has the constitutional right to express their First Amendment freedoms to free speech and protest, but the racist views of neo-Nazis are completely abhorrent," he said, urging the Newnan community "to stand together to show that there is no place for hate or intolerance in Georgia’s Third District.”
But Georgia isn't the only place bracing for neo-Nazi rallies. The German town of Ostritz, near the Polish and Czech border, is also expecting a gathering of hundreds of right-wing extremists for a three-day event starting Friday. A contingent of 1,000 police officers is expected to confront a similar number of neo-Nazi demonstrators, as well as at least another left-wing 1,000 counter-protesters, in the town of 2,300 people, according to German newspaper Spiegel.
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