Saturday, August 15, 2020

Battle Lines Drawn

It might end without bloodshed, today, in Georgia, though.  At Stone Mountain Park, "the symbolic birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan," lies the largest Confederate monument in the USA, honoring General Robert E. Lee, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Confederacy president Jefferson Davis. The AP notes

After several hours of mostly peaceful demonstrations Saturday in an Atlanta suburb that’s home to a giant Confederate memorial, large numbers of police moved in to disperse the crowds when fights broke out.

Several dozen right-wing demonstrators, some waving the Confederate battle flag and many wearing military gear, gathered in downtown Stone Mountain where they faced off against a few hundred counterprotesters, many of whom wore shirts or carried signs expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. People in both groups carried rifles. For several hours, there was little visible police presence and things were largely peaceful, aside from some shoving and pushing and spirited arguments.

But just before 1 p.m., fights broke out, with people punching and kicking each other and throwing rocks. That’s when police officers in riot gear moved in to disperse the crowds.

By 2 p.m., almost all of the protesters had left the area.

Although the (edited) videos I've seen reveal few weapons in the hands of the leftists, a reporter from WSB TV in Atlanta observed "many of the protesters on both sides carried guns" and according to another source, "people in both groups carried rifles."

Nonetheless, few if any people were injured, presumably thanks to the presence of local, state, and National Guard law enforcement authorities. That's an extraordinary achievement given that each side aims to intimidate the other. 

Responding to the confrontation three years ago this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump was justly derided after he stated "you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides." Here, it would be accurate to say "there are malicious people on both sides."

We're not likely to hear that, however. President Trump does not want to alienate his hard-core supporters, as most of the militia individuals at Stone Mountain doubtless are. If he loses the election, he'll need them in the street to maintain his rule; if he wins, to extend his power. And the left is reluctant to concede that any protests related to the Black Lives Matter organization may actually be more interested in sowing chaos than in black lives themselves.

 Instances of police brutality directed against blacks appear in graphic detail on cable news or social media. August is hot and humid in the deep South while some activities are restricted because of SARS-CoV-2. Violent and near-violent confrontations may ensue only because of this volatile mix.

But it's not likely. There are truly bad people on both sides. Several have firearms. And then there is President Trump, eager himself to incite violence. It's going to take some really good fortune to prevent some really bad things from happening.

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