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Barricades up, nerves even higher as Georgia town awaits neo-Nazi rally

​Barricades are going up in Newnan, Georgia, as Andy Knowles' nerves spike even higher. Knowles, who owns a motorcycle shop in the city of 33,000 about 40 miles north of Atlanta, is preparing for the worst when the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement pushes through town on Saturday and is surely met by police and counter-protestors.

“Our entire storefront is nothing but windows,” Knowles told WGLC-TV in Atlanta. “There is a fear with the amount of inventory there will be some sort of damage.” NSM, based in Detroit known for virulent antisemitic language and behavior, is planning to rally with other white supremacist groups on Saturday, April 21. The march through town will be NSM marking the 129th birthday of Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany.

Hitler’s birthday has long been celebrated by neo-Nazis, with racist legend David Duke known to have a cake and a celebration at his home in years past.

The group is expected to be joined by the League of the South founder Michael Hill of Killen, Alabama, along with Shaun Winkler, a member of Aryan Nations and a former Klansman from Mississippi.

The rally at Greenville State Park will mark one of the larger gatherings of neo-Nazis and other racists since the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017.

It also comes on the heels of NSM and other groups agreeing to court orders barring them from returning to Charlottesville while armed.

Along with the racists, Antifa protestors from Atlanta, Nashville, Tennessee and North Carolina are expected to be in town after pushing the hashtag “#NoNaziNewnan” on Twitter to rally support for a counter-protest.

Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows told a public meeting last week that 24 law enforcement agencies are helping with the event and roughly 400 officers will be on hand.

Meadows also asked citizens to stay home.

“They want an audience.,” Meadows said. “We don’t want to give them that.”

Police are also closing roads and putting up detours in an attempt to keep the peace between the neo-Nazis, counter-protestors and citizens.

A high school student and an Antifa group floated petitions calling for the city to stop the protest by NSM.

And, Newnan residents have pushed the hashtag #NewnanStrong while promoting a festival scheduled for Friday night. The aim of that gathering is to unify residents and offer support for each other.

On Twitter, Newnan resident Amy Nelson Lott joked about having a “normal weekend.”

“RATS, forgot pesky Nazis coming to town ... must hide tiki torches,” Nelson Lott wrote. “Srsly tho, these hate-mongers’ vile words - while protected speech - are antithetical to our beliefs. Not another Charlottesville.”

But, more than anything, residents and business owners are scared and just want Saturday to pass.

"Nobody's happy," said Tiffany Shahheadary, manager of the Leaf and Bean coffee house in Newnan. "Everyone is upset, everyone's scared. I'm more scared of damage that could happen."

Shahheadary also knows that the rally received a permit from the city and little can be done about it.

"I can't believe it's 2018 and we're still here, with white supremacy rallies, especially on the anniversary of Dr. King's assassination,” she told WXIA-TV in Atlanta. “I just can't believe that that's where we are in America.”

Photo: AP Images

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