DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - A Douglas County grand jury indicted 15 members of a pro-Confederate flag group Friday after a July clash with people attending a child’s birthday party.
Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner announced the indictments in a news conference Monday morning.
"We do want to say that we respect the rights of all citizens to exercise their First Amendment right, but we're going to require them when they're doing that to respect the rights of all of the citizens to feel safe," said Fortner.
According to Fortner, the 15 people associated with the group “Respect the Flag” drove around the community in vehicles displaying the Confederate flag July 25 when they stopped near a home on Campbellton Street where neighbors were having a child’s birthday party. That resulted in an exchange between the two groups.
After media coverage of the confrontation, which was captured in part on video, the Douglasville Police Department and the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office conducted an investigation into the circumstances.
On Friday, the Grand Jury indicted 15 members of “Respect the Flag” on charges they violated Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act and terroristic threats.
"Georgia's street gang, terrorism and prevention act is worded very broadly to deal with any type of activity that occurs with a group that's organized that commits a crime," Fortner explained.
The indictment also charged two members of the group with battery for an incident that occurred that same day at a gas station in the area of Douglas County known as the Corn Crib.
After the incident, both sides told FOX 5 the other incited violence, but Douglasville Police said at the time they did not have enough evidence either way. Fortner would not directly address claims made by members of "Respect the Flag," but did say investigators looked at allegations from both sides.
One resident at the birthday party said during the celebration, several trucks with American, military and confederate flags flying from the back made their way onto her property, and people inside threatened her.
But a woman who was in one of the pickup trucks disputes that version of the story, saying the confrontation began when someone threw an object at one of the trucks, causing it to swerve and pop a tire.
The Alford family, who was hosting the party, refutes claims anyone from their party threw anything at trucks.
Both sides claimed in July that the other escalated the incident by showing weapons, but police couldn’t confirm that ever happened.
The Alfords would not comment on the indictment, but attorney Morris Dees with the Southern Poverty Law Center, who represents the family, released a statement to FOX 5:
“These cowards chose unarmed African Americans enjoying a peaceful birthday party to vent their violent racist hatred,” Dees said. “This is reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan – modern-day night-riders terrorizing African Americans in the name of Southern heritage. I applaud the foresight and courage of District Attorney Brian Fortner for nipping this dangerous activity in the bud before innocent citizens are hurt.”
None of the accused could be reached for a response.
The case will now go to Douglas County Superior Court for trial.