The SPLC, which investigated the July 25 incident, brought witnesses and evidence to the prosecutor.
A Georgia state prosecutor today announced the indictments of 15 people who threatened African Americans and used racial slurs when they stopped at a family party while cruising around in a convoy of pickup trucks flying Confederate flags.
Ten men and five women were charged with issuing terroristic threats and participating in gang activity. Two of the men were also charged with battery for hitting a man at a gas station on the same day.
The SPLC launched an investigation immediately after the July 25 incident and turned over videos and other evidence to Douglasville District Attorney Brian K. Fortner. SPLC attorneys also brought witnesses to the prosecutor and have been representing some of the people at the party.
SPLC chief trial counsel Morris Dees praised Fortner for bringing charges.
“These cowards chose unarmed African Americans enjoying a peaceful birthday party to vent their violent racist hatred,” Dees said. “This is reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan – modern-day night-riders terrorizing African Americans in the name of Southern heritage.
“I applaud the foresight and courage of District Attorney Brian Fortner for nipping this dangerous activity in the bud before innocent citizens are hurt.”
The loosely organized group, called “Respect the Flag,” was apparently formed in July following the nationwide movement to remove the Confederate flag from public spaces after the Charleston church massacre. The suspect in the June 17 murder of nine African Americans at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church was photographed numerous times with the Confederate flag.
On the morning of July 25, at least seven pickup trucks decorated with Confederate flags were driving around the area when they passed by a family party with about 30 people, including small children, on private property in Douglasville, a small town just west of Atlanta.
The convoy drove across the property where the party was being held and parked nearby. Witnesses told the SPLC that men got out of their trucks, brandished weapons and yelled racial slurs and threats. According to the witnesses, a few people yelled “fuck y’all niggers” and “shoot ‘em.” When someone from the party said, “There are kids here,” a person from the convoy yelled, “We’ll shoot those bastards, too.”
Frightened parents hustled their children indoors, and police were called.
“I was scared,” said Melissa Alford, who was hosting the party. “My first thought was if these people start shooting at us, we wouldn’t be able to get all the kids inside the house in time. I was scared a guest, perhaps a child, would get shot and maybe killed. We didn’t have any way to protect ourselves.”
Christopher Harvey, a guest at the party, said people were grilling and having fun when the convoy appeared. “This event has really terrorized the whole community,” he said. “There is nothing that can justify what they did.”
After the incident, one of Respect the Flag’s sympathizers posted this message on Facebook: “Trust me the last thing you want is a bunch of pissed off rednecks in jacked up trucks and Confederate flags flying to mess up that pretty lawn…. Keep fucking with our flag!!!!!!!”
Alford said she still feels traumatized and has trouble sleeping. She has seen a doctor for her anxiety.
“This is what terror feels like,” Alford said. “These people intimidated and threatened us, just for being who we are.”