Police disperse Georgia protest after fights break out

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Police dispersed right-wing demonstrators and counter protesters on Saturday as scuffles broke out in an Atlanta suburb that is home to a giant Confederate memorial.
Several dozen demonstrators, many armed and carrying Confederate battle flags, staged a rally in Stone Mountain next to a park famed for its nine-story-high rock relief carving of leaders of the breakaway slave-holding states.
A mix of militia members, Confederate followers and supporters of President Donald Trump faced off against over a hundred left-wing protesters, some armed, many carrying signs or wearing T-shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
After hours of shouting, and the burning of a Confederate flag, people began to steal flags and hats from one another, right-wing demonstrators sprayed pepper spray at counter protesters, and fists were thrown.
Riot police backed by a SWAT team in an armored vehicle moved in threatening to arrest anyone who remained. No arrests were reported by police by late afternoon.
“Let’s go! Y’all are cuttin’ into my Saturday,” shouted a police officer.
With rumors of a looming conflict between the Three Percenters militia that called for the rally and the Atlanta Antifacists group who vowed to oppose it, the park was closed to the public on Saturday.
The rally was in response to a July 4 march by a Black militia group against the carving depicting General Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
Park authorities denied the Three Percenters’ request for a rally in the park after a violent clash between groups in 2016.
Park authorities have faced renewed calls for the removal of the sculpture since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Floyd’s killing revived a long-simmering conflict between groups seeking to abolish Confederate monuments, which they see as pro-slavery symbols, and those who believe they honor the traditions and history of the South.
(Reporting by Elijah Nouvelage, Andrew Hay and Peter Szekely; Editing by Richard Chang)