Downtown protests dominate day in Dahlonega

  • Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard keeps watch over the public square in Dahlonega amid hundreds of law-enforcement personnel at a political rally on September 14. (photo by Matt Aiken))
    Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard keeps watch over the public square in Dahlonega amid hundreds of law-enforcement personnel at a political rally on September 14. (photo by Matt Aiken))
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The usual sights and sounds of fall tourist season in downtown Dahlonega were replaced by chants, cheers, barricades and boots on the ground as rally-goers and counter protesters filled opposite ends of the Public Square on Saturday afternoon.
On one side there was local resident and former KKK member Chester Doles who presided over a pro-Trump rally that consisted of several dozen attendees who gathered in the shadow of the chamber visitors center. Controversy surrounding the rally had simmered for weeks as the event was heavily promoted on white supremacy websites and ultimately included a guest speaker with ties to Neo-Nazism.
On the other side were approximately 100 counter protesters who ranged from Atlanta residents to locals. The counter-rally had been organized in part by members of the Socialist Coalition of North Georgia.
In between, a large assemblage of law enforcement officials kept the two groups from converging.
Ultimately, it was a peaceful affair as neither side clashed.
Sheriff Stacy Jarrard credited the highly visible police presence for that.
“I think it went well,” he said. “…It’s amazing the overwhelming support that came from the state of Georgia to help out our community.”
That support consisted of nearly 600 officers from the state, local and federal level and included an armored vehicle parked a few yards from The Fudge Factory and ever-present police drones buzzing overhead.
The event lasted a little less than two hours and resulted in a total of three arrests.
Two of the arrests occurred when a pair of counter protesters walked through the rally chanting “KKK go away.”
They were charged with inciting a riot, according to law enforcement officers.
Another arrest occurred earlier in the morning when a man walked on the University of North Georgia campus while carrying a firearm, said Jarrard.
He was arrested and charged with obstruction and carrying a weapon on school grounds.
The event attracted the attention of numerous locals who gathered amidst the barricades just to take in the scene.
One of those onlookers was UNG student Blaine Hensley.
“I’m just here to see how wrong both sides are,” he said. “…Both sides are caught up in the heat of the moment.”
Hensley took note of the many golden streamers that had been tied around trees and light poles Friday night by a grass-roots group call Lumpkin Loves. An online statement issued by the group said the ribbons were placed by those who “united in standing together against racism and hatred.”
Hensley said he appreciated the gesture.
“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” he said. “I think we welcome everybody. And we support everybody here.”
After the event came to a close the barricades that had divided downtown were disassembled and the square was reopened to normal traffic.
For extensive coverage of this event check back into www.thedahloneganugget.com and see this week’s print edition.