STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) — The Stone Mountain Memorial Association has denied a gathering permit from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who were looking to host their annual Confederate Memorial Day service at Stone Mountain Park outside Atlanta.
The gathering was slated for Saturday but a March 31 letter from memorial association CEO Bill Stephens denied the necessary permit, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Stephens listed three reasons for the denial including safety concerns, specifically the pandemic and racial tensions.
“With the volatile nature of events of the immediate past and ongoing today, there is a clear and present danger to members of the (Sons of Confederate Veterans), potential counterprotesters, park employees and guests,” Stephens wrote.
Stephens also said Silver Dollar City, the group contracted to run the park's attractions, would not allow the group to access the Memorial Plaza Lawn.
Stone Mountain Park has been a gathering spot for white supremacists and has centuries-old ties to the Ku Klux Klan. The park has the largest Confederate monument ever crafted, featuring sculptures of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson carved into the mountainside. The monument has special protection enshrined in Georgia law.
Martin O’Toole, a spokesman for the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he understood the concern regarding COVID-19 but questioned the other safety issue.
“This is a memorial service that is part of the whole purpose for the park’s existence,” O’Toole said.
O'toole said the park has held the event for the Confederate Memorial Day at least 18 times without issue. Last year, it was canceled due to the pandemic.
Although the park has historically been a gathering spot for white supremacists, the adjoining city of Stone Mountain, a suburb of Atlanta has a majority-Black population today.
The park has previously closed its gates to white nationalists. In August, the park denied a permit sought by right-wing groups led by an Arkansas group called Confederate States III%, who had planned an event in response to a march by a Black militia group on July 4.