By LEO HOHMANN
I live right outside the city limits of Newnan, Georgia, and my hometown became a media spectacle this past Saturday, April 21.
One of my friends called it a protest rally for the “dumb and dumber.”
I must say, our fair city did resemble a no-go zone for normal folks.
Antifa sent us busloads of anarchists, Marxists and common criminals, who took to the streets with naïve college students and some well-intentioned locals. They came to protest a rally by a small band of neo-Nazis from the National Socialist Movement, which had been granted a permit by the city to hold a rally in the Greenville Street Park.
In the past, back when folks were a bit more tolerant of those holding divergent political views, such a rally would have come and gone without so much as a glancing notice. At worst, it might have sparked a good old-fashioned political debate in the park.
But in today’s America, when a group espousing controversial views decides to exercise its First Amendment rights in a public space, the left goes berserk and marshals its own, much larger army of extremists to turn out and make mischief. This creates a toxic environment that can devolve quickly into mayhem, vandalism and death.
The city of Newnan found itself in just such a situation this weekend.
But Newnan was prepared. More than 800 officers from 42 law-enforcement agencies across Georgia, many of them covered from head to toe in black-armored riot gear, lined the streets of this small Southern town of 38,000.
There were police barricades and check points all over. Helicopters and drones circled overhead, some armed with listening devices and electronic eyes with facial-recognition software.
What have we become as a people when it takes this kind of military presence to keep the peace on the streets of small-town America?
The cost to the taxpayer must have been astronomical.
Yet, I have no doubt that were it not for this massive police presence, we very possibly could have had another Charlottesville on our hands. [Recall that one person died and several were injured at a white-supremacist rally and antifa counter-rally at Charlottesville, Virginia, last August].
I could have gone downtown Saturday and witnessed the spectacle first-hand but I didn’t.
Though the weather was a perfect sunny and 75 degrees, this was not my idea of a Saturday afternoon in the park. I, like most Newnan-area residents, decided to sit this one out.
Publicity for the event was shoved down our throats for weeks by the Atlanta media, which then cascaded into national media coverage from the likes of CNN, the New York Times, New York Post, Time magazine and USA Today.
This put the city on edge with genuine fear. The big, bad Nazis were coming to get us!
Church leaders gathered the night before to pray for peace.
The white nationalists were hyped to the point where you almost expected them to march into town with jack boots, side-arms and a contingent of panzer tanks. What we got instead were a couple of dozen white guys, some with grizzled grey beards, armed with a megaphone.
They showed up about 4 p.m., shouted a bit of their supremacist ideology through the loudspeaker and by 5 p.m. were finished, led out of town by police escort, probably never to be seen again in these parts.
Ten people were arrested, all of them antifa demonstrators who refused to remove their face masks, pushed officers and refused to get out of the streets and onto the sidewalks. In a confrontation with police, one antifa group dropped bags that were later found to contain smoke grenades and fireworks. At another location on Jackson Street, antifa thugs were found dropping cans of wasp spray capable of shooting 25 feet, and a shield with screws protruding from the front was also recovered.
Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager told the local Times-Herald that antifa came to Newnan “with a purpose. They came here to antagonize, take control of our community and incite fear.”
From the livestream video I watched on Facebook, the police were disciplined and professional, even as the antifa anarchists hurled insult after insult their way, punctuated in most cases by vile and filthy language.
“Cops, pigs, murderers, you’re the real fascists!” some shouted.
“Cops and Klan go hand in hand!” others cried out.
Make no mistake, these so-called anti-fascists came to Newnan looking for a fight with the white nationalists, something that would bring them national attention. It could have been a blood bath.
But, unlike in Charlottesville, the anticipated face-off never happened. While police in Charlottesville stood down and let the two opposing sides clash, the police in Newnan left nothing to chance. They prevented the two sides from getting anywhere near each other, and you could tell this frustrated the anarchists and Marxists to no end.
Antifa militants were so upset about not being allowed to act out and get violent that they scheduled a second protest Sunday night against, as they called it, “police brutality.” They accused the police of “protecting the racists” while brutalizing the anti-fascists.
That was nothing but communist propaganda. Police were not brutal in the least. They were smart and responsible, protecting life, limb and property.
I’m proud of the city of Newnan, proud of the police, and proud of all the Newnanites who stayed home and refused to get drawn into the media hype. We refused to be used by the left as their useful idiots. We refused to be led like sheep to join their stupid “#Newnan Strong” war cry.
What, I ask, makes us “Newnan Strong”? Because we don’t agree with the 24 white guys with the megaphone? The National Socialist Movement has so few followers in America that if a national political poll were conducted, I am sure their support would be so miniscule that it would not even register as measurable.
If you want to see strong, look to the World War II veterans who fought the real Nazis on Normandy beach. Look at the conscripted Vietnam vet who fought the communists and came home to ridicule and public shaming. Now those guys had to be strong, both emotionally and physically.
I hate to break it to the young people who flocked to Newnan on Saturday, but chanting slogans in a crowd does not qualify you as strong.
Hate has always existed in the world, on the right and the left, and hate will remain with us until the end of time. In fact, Jesus Christ warned us that evil and deception would increase until He returns to put the evil-doers in their place once and for all.
Much of the hatred I saw Saturday was directed at police, who were there for one reason and one reason only, to keep the peace.
The modus operandi of Marxist revolutionaries is always to sow division among the people they wish to conquer.
If they can use a neo-Nazi rally by a couple of dozen middle-aged men, they will seize upon it.
Typically what these revolutionaries like to do is get right up into their opponents’ faces, curse at them, spit at them, throw things, anything to provoke a backlash. That always turns a local story into a national one, which those on the far right and the far left then use as rallying cries to recruit new members.
But most of us in Newnan refused to fall for the bait. We stayed home and let police do their job.
The National Socialist Movement’s neo-Nazi leader, Jeff Schoep, said in his brief speech Saturday that his group was peaceful and only wanted to defend white pride.
When other racialists refer to “black pride” it is accepted as normal, he said. But when his group speaks of white pride it is considered racist. And when counter-protesters coalesce around a National Socialist rally, “it only makes us grow stronger,” he said.
In an avalanche of gibberish, that’s about the only thing he said that made sense.
Newnan city officials made the right call by allowing this unpopular group to hold their little rally in the park and speak their piece.
For those who did not understand the thinking behind that decision, consider this. What if these kinds of groups were not allowed to speak their minds in public? If the government can take away their First Amendment rights, then anyone’s free-speech rights are up for negotiation.
And when you start judging Americans on the popularity of their opinions, silencing certain folks’ rights while championing others, where does that lead?
What we saw Saturday on both sides was a lot of angry souls. The white nationalists are angry toward anyone who doesn’t look like them. The antifa types hate capitalism and Christianity and want to stoke a revolution against the existing social order.
Our Founding Fathers understood that the best remedy for human anger is to allow people to voice it in the public square. Let them get it off their chests. Squelching their speech only drives these angry groups underground, where they will be a million times more dangerous.
The level of intolerance in this country, especially on the left, has grown to the point where we now need a virtual army on the streets to protect us from a blood bath whenever an unpopular right-wing group seeks to exercise its First Amendment rights.
Wisdom tells us to read the signs of the times. The Lord sends to his faithful followers harbingers of things to come.
We may already have entered a stage of “pre-civil war.” We must continue to pray for peace.