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Atlanta-area park denies permit for Confederate event

Atlanta-area park denies permit for Confederate event
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Stone Mountain Park in DeKalb County, Ga., has declined to give the state's division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans a permit to host its annual Confederate Memorial Day service on park grounds, citing safety concerns. 

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which oversees and manages the state-owned park, said in a March 31 letter first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that it could not grant an event permit to the group. 

Memorial Association CEO Bill Stephens wrote that “with the volatile nature of events of the immediate past and ongoing today, there is a clear and present danger to members of the [Sons of Confederate Veterans], potential counter protesters, park employees and guests.” 

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Stephens went on to say that the park “does not have adequate resources to protect the event’s participants, employees, and guests,” according to the Journal-Constitution. 

The CEO added that there were also concerns about hosting the event amid the coronavirus pandemic and that the Silver Dollar City, the group responsible for running the park’s attractions, would not allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans to access the Memorial Plaza Lawn.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the group’s annual memorial event last year, though Martin O’Toole, a spokesman for the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told the Journal-Constitution that the event has been held 18 other times. 

“This is a memorial service that is part of the whole purpose for the park’s existence,” O’Toole argued. 

Stone Mountain Park, located about 26 miles northeast of Atlanta, is widely known for its centuries-old ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and is also home to the largest Confederate monument with sculptures of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson carved into the side of the mountain. 

In August, Stone Mountain announced that it would close ahead of a rally planned by groups of far-right protesters. 

The park denied a permit request from the group the Three Percenters to hold a 2,000-person event “to defend and protect our history and Second Amendment rights.” 

The far-right group had pushed back on the movement to take down Confederate statues and monuments across the country amid last summer’s civil unrest and calls for racial justice spurred by the police killing of George Floyd.