|A predominately Black group of heavily armed protesters called on white militia to join them - or fight them - as they called for the removal of Georgia's Confederate memorial at Stone Mountain Park Saturday. SCREENSHOT: NAOMI RUTA|
About 1,000 heavily armed militia, all of whom were Black, marched through Georgia's Stone Mountain Park on Saturday, challenging white nationalist groups in the area to either come out and fight or join them in demonstrating against the government.
Stone Mountain State Park officials said the Black militia group was peaceful, orderly and escorted by police as they called for the removal of the country's largest Confederate monument near Atlanta.
Videos posted to social media show the group, the "Not F**king Around Coalition" (NFAC), meeting at the massive nine-story quartz sculpting that depicts former Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Southern generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
NFAC Founder Grand Master Jay told Newsweek via phone Sunday that the militia members at Stone Mountain on Saturday were "100 percent Black" and they are not affiliated with Black Lives Matter. "We are a Black militia. We aren't protesters, we aren't demonstrators. We don't come to sing, we don't come to chant. That's not what we do," he said.
The NFAC head explained why several videos show the militia members alongside demonstrators earlier in the day before heading to Stone Mountain. Grand Master Jay told Newsweek the sister of Rayshard Brooks, who was killed outside an Atlanta Wendy's by police last month, requested the NFAC militia provide her with a security escort to a downtown rally that began at the site of her brother's death.
"Our initial goal was to have a formation of our militia in Stone Mountain to send a message that as long as you're abolishing all these statues across the country, what about this one?" Grand Master Jay said, referencing the massive Confederate carving.
He added that he must commend Stone Mountain police for offering the all-Black militia support as they exercised their constitutional rights on July 4th.
"It was all Black ... there were no brown people, no white people... everyone was Black. I am not a protester, I am the commanding general of my militia, we were swearing in new members," he added, highlighting there was a second militia "show of force" Saturday near Phoenix.
In Stone Mountain, Georgia earlier today pic.twitter.com/F2Autd4YtI— Naomi (@naomiruta) July 4, 2020
The coalition of Black militia met at the monument, which is historically tied to the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and has more recently been the site of white nationalist rallies. Leaders of the militia frequently halted the protest to challenge local white supremacists and far-right Second Amendment advocates to "stop hiding."
"I don't see no white militia, the boogie [boogaloo] boys, the three percenters and all the rest of these scared-ass rednecks. We here, where the f**k you at? We're in your house," one protester said into a PA system during the Stone Mountain Park march.
John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, said the protests were orderly and acknowledged the Confederate monument is frequently used as a meeting place for far right-wing militia.
"It's a public park, a state park. We have these protests on both sides of the issue from time to time. We respect people's First Amendment right," Bankhead told WXIA-TV. "We understand the sensitivities of the issue here at the park ... so we respect that and allow them to come in as long as it's peaceful, which it has been."
Newsweek reached out to Stone Mountain Park officials for additional remarks.
Videos shared by visitors to the park Saturday showed several militia members responding to questions from confused motorists asking: "Who are you guys?" One member of the militia immediately threw the question right back at one white motorist and asked him about slavery reparations.
"We want change that's really going to permanently help us, we don't want [any] little change, we want some real change," one of the organizers said, noting that many Black civil rights groups have been marching for change since the 1960s and have largely been ignored.
The park runs along Robert E. Lee Boulevard, named for the Confederate general who led the South during the Civil War. It reopened for the July 4 weekend after weeks of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Calls to remove or alter the massive Confederate monument have been reignited in the wake of George Floyd's May 25 death in Minneapolis.
Correction 5:57 PM ET, with a revised headline and the correct spelling of Rayshard Brooks' first name.