Predominant black armed protesters march through the Confederate memorial park in Georgia

(Reuters) – A predominantly black group of heavily armed protesters marched through Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta on Saturday, calling for the removal of the giant Confederate rock carving at the site that civil rights activists consider a monument to racism.

FILE PHOTO: A woman speaks in front of the monument after protesters marched against the granite-carved Confederate Monument at Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain, Georgia, USA, June 16, 2020. REUTERS / Dustin Chambers

Video footage of the Independence Day rally posted on social media showed dozens of protesters dressed in black, many in paramilitary-style clothing and all with headscarves, parading silently down the park’s sidewalk.

All protesters carried rifles, including military-type weapons, and some carried ammunition belts slung over their shoulders. Although African Americans seemed to represent the majority of protesters, protesters of various races, male and female alike, were among the group.

A video shows an unidentified leader of the protesters yelling over a loudspeaker in defiance of white supremacists who have historically used Stone Mountain as their own rallying point.

“I don’t see any white militia,” he declared. “They were here. Where … are you? We’re at your house Let’s go.”

John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, said the protesters were peaceful and orderly.

“It is a public park, a state park. Occasionally we have these protests on both sides of the problem. We respect people’s First Amendment rights, ”Bankhead told NBC affiliate station WXIA-TV.

“We understand the sensitivities of the problem here in the park … so we respect that and allow it to come in as long as it is peaceful, which has been.”

Stone Mountain, which reopened over the holiday weekend after a week-long closure for the coronavirus, has faced new calls for its removal since the May 25 death of unarmed black man George Floyd, a hands of the Minneapolis police.

Floyd’s murder helped revive a simmering conflict between groups seeking to eliminate Confederate statues and sculptures, which they see as symbols of slavery, and those who believe they honor the traditions and history of the Deep South.

Nine stories tall and spanning the length of a soccer field, the Stone Mountain relief sculpture carved into a granite wall overlooking the Georgia field, some 25 miles east of Atlanta, remains the Largest monument of the United States Civil War Confederation.

Features images of Jefferson Davis, who was president of the 11-State Confederacy, and two of his legendary generals, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Eureka, California; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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