By Darrin Heatherly, Cody McGhee, Gabe Ramos, James White and Cam Moyer
STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — Stone Mountain Park is supposed to serve as a family-friendly, fun-oriented park with miles of trails and lots of beautiful scenery. However, sometimes the park serves as home to rallies that breed hate and fuel racial tensions.
The Public Safety Office wishes it could shut down the hateful rallies from ever getting started within the park. However, legally they are unable to as disagreeing with the message a group is trying to spread is not grounds for denying a permit to gather.
The First Amendment protects citizens’ right to gather peacefully as well as their freedom of speech, whether or not you agree with the message that group is trying to spread.
“We wish we could stop these kinds of rallies,” Public Information Officer John Bankhead said. “They’ve gotten out of hand since August 1st, and we want it to stop. We tried to stop this but legally we couldn’t.”
The rallies that get held at the park are a major inconvenience for those who are just trying to make sure park visitors are safe. It’s an added thorn in the side of people who already have enough to deal with on a day to day basis.
“We want to continue serving the community and the state,” Bankhead said. “We wish this group weren’t here, but they are here so we’re dealing with it.”
The more public these rallies become, the more it will be for Bankhead and the rest of the department to deal with. With such a divisive issue at hand, more and more counter-protesters will continue to show up to try to disrupt the gathering.
Despite the mountain being somewhat of a Confederate landmark, Officer Bankhead maintains that the park is open to any and everybody and encourages people of all races to come enjoy everything the park has to offer.