Groups to rally at Georgia landmark ahead of Confederate holiday

A Stone Mountain carving depicts three Confederate leaders: President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson

Story highlights

  • A "pro-white" group will rally at Georgia's Stone Mountain on Saturday
  • Organizers say there's an attack on Confederate history and white people
  • Two other groups will protest the "pro-white" rally

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(CNN)Monday marks the observance of Confederate Memorial Day for Georgia citizens who see fit to celebrate the holiday.

It's a paid day off for some, a time to contemplate the South's complicated history for others and a holiday that many Georgians haven't even heard of.
    One group plans to usher in the day of Civil War remembrance on Saturday with a "pro-white" rally at a prominent landmark of the Confederacy, Stone Mountain Park.
    Now known as a gathering spot for families and tourists, Stone Mountain was once a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity. The park hosts laser light shows, hikes and camping facilities, whereas it was once the site of cross "lightings."
    John Estes, an event organizer with the group Rock Stone Mountain, says Saturday's rally will focus on what he calls the current attempt to not only erase Confederate history, but to also erase white history and the white race altogether.
    "This is a racial issue. They (media, politicians, other countries) hate white people. Point blank," he said.
    While Rock Stone Mountain does not have a specific affiliation, Estes says it is made up of like-minded individuals from all over who share a concern about the "future of the white race."
    The event was spurred by efforts to remove the Confederate flag from atop the mountain, which came in the wake of South Carolina removing the flag from its statehouse grounds. The flag, along with a carving of Confederate leaders on the side of Stone Mountain, has sparked condemnation from those who say it glorifies a horrific period in American history.
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    Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, told CNN in July that the carving and surrounding depictions of the Civil War offer a false narrative and have no place on public property.
    "That carving is a great piece of art, but it was commissioned out of hate and white supremacy," Rose said. "The state should not be supporting or condoning white supremacy with my tax dollars."
    The request is part of the chapter's call to take down all signs of the Confederacy at Georgia-owned properties.
    But John Bankhead, spokesman for the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which maintains the state-owned park, said last summer the property is self-sufficient. Park maintenance and operations are covered by revenues, not tax dollars, he said.
    Rock Stone Mountain has been using social media to get the word out about the rally this weekend; the group expects upward of 100 attendees. Estes says the group anticipates that families will attend the rally and hopes it will be a peaceful event.
    Estes' group won't be alone in demonstrating at the landmark, which sits in the middle of a diverse suburb of Atlanta. Confederates of Michigan decided to hold a counter-rally after learning of Rock Stone Mountain's event. It touts itself as a group that simply wants to honor Confederate history, and says all races are welcome.
    On the group's Facebook page members express outrage over what they see as a neo-Nazi and racist group commandeering historical images and history and turning it into something ugly.
    Meanwhile, a third group, All Out Atlanta, comprised of anti-white supremacy demonstrators, will gather at another area of the park to protest.
    "We think that if the Stone Mountain Park has gone out of their way to help the openly white power rally organized by KKK members to occur there, then we need to show up regardless of whether or not they allow it," an All Out Atlanta organizer told CNN.
    Stone Mountain officials say they've coordinated with five law enforcement agencies to be on hand Saturday in case crowds clash.
    "Our hands are tied. We prefer they not have it here. We don't condone it. This is a family-oriented park that attracts people of all races," Bankhead told Atlanta's WAGA.
    A local high school moved its prom from a Stone Mountain Park hotel after learning about the rally, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
    The battle over Stone Mountain is just one of many being waged over state-sanctioned use of Confederate symbols across the South.
    Sensitivity about Confederate symbols reached a high point after nine African American churchgoers were slain in Charleston, South Carolina, by a man who allegedly announced his intention to kill black people. Accused shooter Dylann Roof had previously posed in pictures with the banner.
    In July, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the stars and bars" flag from statehouse grounds.
    Last year, Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee Day were removed from Georgia's state holidays calendar and replaced by the term "state holiday."
    The state still intends to celebrate the holidays by closing the Capitol and state agency offices, Gov. Nathan Deal's spokesman Brian Robinson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
    "There will be a state holiday on that day," he said. "Those so inclined can observe Confederate Memorial Day and remember those who died in that conflict."