Protesters who showed up Saturday to oppose a white-rights rally in downtown Rome had different reasons for being there.
Tamekia Campbell was one of the verbal protesters at the event. She said she was shocked by some of the things members of the National Socialist Movement were yelling.
Campbell, who was born in Rome, was angry that members of the Neo-Nazi group had yelled at her to go back to Africa.
Rome Mayor Jamie Doss also showed up in protest of the rally.
“I’m here to stand up for my city,” he said.
The city of Rome had no choice but to allow the rally, but Doss wanted to make it clear the group does not represent Rome.
“Rome, Georgia, is working hard to reach its potential, and the only way we can reach our potential is by embracing our diversity,” Doss said.
Most of the 100 members of the NSM rally appeared to be from out of town, while about 300 local residents showed up to protest their presence at the Joint Law Enforcement Center.
Rome and Floyd County police officers and Floyd County deputies formed a barrier down the center of Fifth Avenue between the rally and the protesters.
Stacey Wright was one of the silent protesters at the rally. She said the tension of the moment was what stood out to her the most. Wright took her teenage daughters to the protest.
“It was important for me to show them that this type of hate is out there,” Wright said.
She also said she wanted her girls to be empowered to stand up against hate groups.
Caroline Atkins was also at the silent protest. She said she felt sorry for the Neo-Nazi group because they had so much hate.
“I know they had every right to be there, but I wanted to use my right to protest against them,” Atkins said.
The Turn Your Back on Hate silent protest had about 200 members present.
They stood along the front of the historic Floyd County Courthouse in silence for about 30 minutes, then the calmly turned their backs against the NSM group and walked away.
Other groups were more vocal about their protest of the white-rights group, yelling phrases like, “You have to have a permit for hate. We don’t need a permit for love.”
The rally downtown lasted from 2 to 5 p.m. After the rally was over, the NSM members left to go to their after party in Temple.
Rome Assistant Police Chief Debbie Burnett said the rally was about as peaceful as it could have been.
“Everybody went home safely and no one was hurt which is about the best we could have had,” Burnett said.
Two protesters were arrested during the rally, Burnett said. Both were charged with disorderly conduct.
Burnett said there were about 20 to 30 visible police officers at the rally and several who were not in uniforms in the crowd to make sure everyone was safe.
“People think we have the power to allow or disallow protest groups, but we took an oath to uphold the Constitution and that means giving people the right to free speech,” Burnett said.