AJC Watchdog: Atlanta’s activists, from A to Z

12:00 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017 Local
Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Hundreds of protesters marched from Woodruff Park to Piedmont Park on Aug. 13, 2017, in a rally organized by All Out Atlanta in response to violence in Virginia. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

The news these days is filled with such a dizzying array of protests, movements and organizations, one might be forgiven for getting a little mixed up.

Legacy civil rights groups like the NAACP are well known and an active part of current protests. And unfortunately some equally well-known hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan are still around. But there are a lot of new players in Atlanta. Here’s a (hopefully) helpful glossary.

All Out Atlanta — This coalition of progressive activist groups emerged in response to a white power rally in April 2016. The rally, called “Rock Stone Mountain,” was billed as a convergence of white supremacist and white nationalist groups, but the counter-protesters took center stage, vastly outnumbering them and confronting police who lined up to keep the sides apart. The coalition remains an active organizing force and was behind the rally earlier this month that ended with the defacing of a statue in Piedmont Park. The coalition does not explicitly endorse non-violence.

Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A masked antifa protester from a march in Atlanta following violence in Charlottesville, Va. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Antifascists (Antifa) — This movement is new to many in post-Charlottesville America, but this militant group of leftist activists has been around for a long time. The Atlanta Antifascists is a relatively new group, having emerged in late 2015 to confront Ku Klux Klan and neo-Confederate protesters at Stone Mountain. These days, the group squares off against alt-right activists online and in real life, often in dueling poster campaigns. They believe physically confronting the opposing side, often chanting their desire to “punch a Nazi.” Online they are engaged in unveiling white supremacist activists in the area. Read more about them here.

Black Lives Matter — Likely the largest and most well-known of the progressive protest groups, Black Lives Matter organized in response to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., by George Zimmerman. The movement is diffuse with groups claiming the mantle all around metro Atlanta. Signs and chants representing the movement are a staple at most major protests. The group embraces non-violence as a tactic.

Council on American-Islamic Relations — Another national organization with an active presence in Atlanta, CAIR is a Muslim civil liberties organization that patterns itself after the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League. They are active in protests where there are large coalitions but as an organization they are more geared toward education and advocacy than street-level protesting. In June, they held a food drive at a local mosque as a counter to the anti-Sharia rally staged by ACT, which CAIR described as “anti-Muslim.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Protesters from the Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America in this 2011 file photo. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Democratic Socialists of America — Home base for Bernie Sanders supporters, the DSA’s Atlanta chapter is very active in street-level protests and other types of activism. Unlike many others on the progressive side, the DSA has specific economic and political aims, the roots of which go back decades in America. Nationally, the DSA advocates for socialist reforms as a “means of restructuring society.”

Hyosub Shin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Georgia Alliance for Social Justice organized the Take Down White Supremacy March on Aug. 19, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM`

Georgia Alliance for Social Justice — This progressive activist group was founded by Atlanta activists who helped organize for the Women’s March in January following the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The group explicitly endorses non-violence as espoused by Martin Luther King Jr. and was behind last weekend’s peaceful rally downtown in response to the violence in Charlottesville. The alliance is headed by local progressive activists who use their social network Rolodexes and organizational skills to turn out like-minded folks.

Industrial Workers of the World — The IWW was founded as an “anarcho-socialist” labor union more than a century ago and still focuses on labor issues. The “Wobblies,” as they came to be known at their height, are active in Atlanta with members finding common cause with other progressive groups on issues like the wage gap and racism.

ACT for America — This right-wing organization takes a hard line on immigration issues and staged “anti-Sharia law” protests around the country in June, including one in Piedmont Park. That protest produced a controversial picture of State Sen. Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for governor, posing with members of an armed militia. One of the men in the photo is implicated in the beating of a counter-protester in Charlottesville.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Members of the Villa Rica-based Aryan Nations Worldwide salute in a photo from the group’s now-defunct Facebook page.

Aryan Nations — Nationally, this group is not new and not big, but the Aryan Nations is a neo-Nazi group with a history of violence with relatively recent activity here in Georgia. They were among a coalition of groups that staged a white supremacist rally in Romein April 2016. You can read more about a small group of them in Villa Rica here.

Identity Evropa — A white supremacist group founded in 2016 by Iraq war veteran Nathan Damigo that is organized specifically around white European identity politics. The group’s activism is largely online, but the group’s Atlanta faction has made noise by plastering recruiting posters at Georgia State University and Georgia Tech and at least one banner briefly hung from the Jackson Street Bridge downtown.

Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The neo-Confederate League of the South has been active in pro-Confederate flag rallies at Stone Mountain Park. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

League of the South — A neo-Confederate group that actually proposes secession of Southern states. It is a white nationalist group (or, in their own words, “a Southern nationalist organization for white gentiles”) and has participated in a number of rallies in the metro area over the last several years, especially at the pro-Confederate flag rallies at Stone Mountain. They were also among the coalition of groups at Charlottesville.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement gathered in Rome, Ga., on Saturday, April 23, 2016. MATT KEMPNER / AJC

National Socialist Movement (NSM) — These are the neo-Nazis. The group aggressively brands itself as the nation’s “largest pro-white group,” but it’s explicitly Nazi in its politics and philosophy. NSM members in Georgia helped organize a cross-movement neo-Nazi rally in Rome in 2016 that corresponded with a white power rally the same day at Stone Mountain.

Kent Johnson/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Armed militias, like the Georgia Security Force III% militia, are a fixture at right wing protests. KENT D. JOHNSON /AJC

III% Militias — These are the folks with semi-automatic rifles and military-style gear you see at a lot of rallies. Chris Hill, leader of the Georgia Security Force III%, describes his group as providing “security” for right wing activists, rather than being activists themselves. “I always tell people that we use our Second Amendment rights to protect their First Amendment rights,” Hill said. Hill’s group has been active in protecting Confederate monuments and was part of the protests last year of a proposed mosque and cemetery in Newton County. Hill said he would like to see the three-percenter movement take more of a stand. “We need to agree on a platform and we need to advocate for it and we need to defend it fiercely,” he said.

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