Georgia police use law created to combat the Klu Klux Klan on counter-protesters of neo-Nazis
In Newnan, Georgia on Saturday, neo-Nazis were late to their own rally, so counter-protesters decided to get a head start in demonstrating against the National Socialist Movement, who believe “All non-White immigration must be prevented. We demand that all non-Whites currently residing in America be required to leave the nation forthwith and return to their land of origin: peacefully or by force” according to their website.
However, because some counter-protesters had masks or bandanas concealing their faces or identities, the Newnan SWAT officers pointed their guns at the unarmed protesters while demanding that they remove their masks.
According to the Washington Post, one officer told the crowd of protesters, “State law requires you to remove your masks right now, you will do it right now or you will be arrested.” Minutes later, some of the protesters were in handcuffs, and video footage shows several of them being thrown onto the ground and arrested as they chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot!” The officers continued to insist that the protestors remove their masks.
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) April 21, 2018
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the police enforced the anti hood law throughout most of the latter half of the 20th Century against the Klu Klux Klan. But recently police have taken to using the law to target masked counter-protesters who cover their faces to avoid being targeted by the white supremacist groups they protest against.
In 1990, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled against a Klansman, Shade Miller who argued that the hooded Klansman’s mask was “protected symbolic speech.” The court also stated that the ruling was not content specific, meaning that it cannot be solely applied to white nationalist and white supremacist groups. The full ruling reads:
We know that ‘public disguise is a particularly effective means of committing crimes of violence and intimidation. From the beginning of time the mask or hood has been the criminal’s dress. It conceals evidence, hinders apprehension and calms the criminal’s inward cowardly fear,’ ” the court said. “A nameless, faceless figure strikes terror in the human heart. But, remove the mask, and the nightmarish form is reduced to its true dimensions. The face betrays not only identity, but human frailty.