Police arrested counterprotesters who wore masks at a neo-Nazi rally in Newnan, Georgia, over the weekend, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
More than 700 law enforcement officers were on hand to help keep peace during the planned National Socialist Movement rally. Police arrested a group of NoNaziNewnan Coalition (an anti-Nazi organization) supporters who refused to comply when officers asked them to uncover their faces as they protested the NSM rally.
“State law requires you to remove your masks right now,” a SWAT officer told the crowd, according to a video captured at the scene by freelance journalist, Daniel Shular. “You will do it right now, or you will be arrested.”
Eight were arrested for violating the Anti-Mask Act, a misdemeanor charge.
The Anti-Mask Act, adopted in 1951, prohibits demonstrators from wearing masks or hoods to hide their identity at public events. It was initially enacted to combat Ku Klux Klan activity.
A small group of about two dozen neo-Nazis showed up to the protest led by NSM Commander Jeff Schoep.
“We stand together. We will not back down. We will not be silenced,” Schoep yelled from a stage.
Some chanted "white power," but Schoep said the National Socialist Movement isn't a hate group and that they love all people and their country.
The NoNaziNewnan group, which had a larger turnout, carried banners and chanted, “No hatred, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” and, "Cops and Klan go hand in hand!"
Authorities encountered a group of about 50 counterprotesters. Some had masks or bandanas covering their faces.
Police demanded, "Remove your masks!" while several NoNaziNewnan supporters chanted, "Hands up, don't shoot!"
Jeremy Ortega, who was among the counterprotesters charged with a misdemeanor for not removing his mask, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was trying to hide his identity to avoid being targeted by neo-Nazi groups.
“They were trying to stop us, and we were trying to dial down the racist stuff,” said Ortega, 19. “We were peacefully protesting, yet they put guns in our faces and told us to take our masks off.”
There were no injuries to police or protesters, according to the Coweta County Sheriff's Office.
There were no arrests of white nationalist protesters.
Those arrested on Saturday had all been released on bail by Sunday night, according to the Washington Post.