There was lots of anticipation in the small Georgia town of Newnan for what had been billed as the biggest gathering of neo-Nazis since Charlottesville last year that ended with one person dead. In the end, it was much ado about nothing as mere dozens of people showed up to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and they were far outnumbered by hundreds of counterprotesters. But the town got ready for the event with a massive militarized police presence and it seems the approximately 700 law enforcement officers who were on hand were eager to do something so they quickly turned attention to the people who had gathered to protest Nazis. At least 10 were arrested.
Illustrating the widespread concern about possible violence, an hour before the event began, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tweeted that he was “praying for Newnan.”
Photos and video quickly spread on social media showing a very aggressive law enforcement force that targeted counterprotesters. Christopher Mathias of the Huffington Post wrote on Twitter that he witnessed “the most over-aggressive policing I’ve ever seen” as police tackled and arrested protesters “for wearing masks.” One shocking picture shows a cop pointing guns directly at the counterprotesters.
Jack Smith IV, a senior writer at Mic also posted video of police rushing into crowds and arresting a person “for wearing a red bandana on their face.”
Journalist Daniel Shular also posted a video showing arrests, including a point when an officer pointed his rifle at protesters and the press.
Mathias also posted a very telling photograph that shows how strange it is to see a town of 38,000 people with a police force that looks more like a military force than law enforcement for a small town.
Despite the arrests there were no injuries and police declared the operation a success. “I’m so proud of the community,” Newnan police chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows said, declaring he was “very relieved” there had been no violence. At least by the protesters.