Stone Mountain Park closes ahead of dual demonstrations

Stone Mountain Park closed on Saturday due to safety concerns over dual, counter-protests planned for this weekend.

The park gates will be closed starting at 4 a.m. until midnight, Stone Mountain officials announced late Friday afternoon.

Several far-right groups including white supremacists were planning to hold a counter-demonstration at the park after a Black militia group said they planned to hold another protest.

Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

The event has sparked fears of violence, especially before the militia group said earlier this week that it would cancel plans to show up. Other groups were still planning to counterprotest.

Last year, the park also closed down rather than allow a rally organized by white supremacists to go forward.

The organizers were led by an Arkansas group called Confederate States III%, which applied for a permit. But Stone Mountain Memorial Association spokesperson John Bankhead said the park denied the permit on Aug. 4. The denial cited a violent clash between groups in April 2016. Bankhead said the park has not received any other permit applications. He said police would be present to keep demonstrators away.

Bankhead said the park will reopen Sunday.

Officials in the adjoining city of Stone Mountain advised people Friday to stay away from the city all day, residents to stay home and businesses to shut down.

“Do not confront the protesters,” the city wrote in a public announcement posted on social media.

“Please know that the city’s local law enforcement agency is managing the situation and has devised a plan for the protection of life and property,” the announcement continued. “Every effort is being made to ensure that any demonstrations conducted within the city’s limits are performed peacefully and without incident.”

The predominantly Black demonstrators on July 4 spoke out against the huge sculpture depicting Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Carved into a granite mountain, the bas-relief sculpture is the largest Confederate monument ever crafted.

The 100 to 200 protesters, many of whom carried large rifles, were peaceful.

Although the park has historically been a gathering spot for white supremacists, the adjoining city of Stone Mountain has a majority-Black population today.

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.