ATLANTA — The Sons of Confederate Veterans plan to return to Stone Mountain Park next month for their (mostly) annual celebration of Confederate Memorial Day.
State officials denied the Confederate group's request to gather for a ceremony last year, citing the possibility of "a clear and present danger to public health or safety" among the reasons.
But records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed this year's permit application — submitted by Richard K. Straut, a SCV representative who's also running for a seat in the Georgia state Senate — was approved earlier this month.
Activists called the Stone Mountain Memorial Association allowing the event a "tone deaf" decision for a state entity that's purportedly taking steps to soften its ties to the Confederacy.
Memorial association CEO Bill Stephens, meanwhile, said the Sons of Confederate Veterans have gathered for years in front of the mountain and its massive carving of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. The event is usually "small and respectful" and "pre-event news coverage" and social media have more recently inflamed tensions, he said.
He also reiterated that COVID-19 was a factor in last spring's permit denial.
At that time, societal tensions over racial justice, white supremacy and Confederate monuments were at a fever pitch.
Tributes to the Lost Cause were coming down across the country and advocates had renewed their push for changes at state-run Stone Mountain Park. A few months earlier, far-right militia groups and leftist counter-protesters had clashed in the streets of the nearby city of Stone Mountain.
"With the volatile nature of events of the immediate past and ongoing today, there is a clear and present danger to members of the [Sons of Confederate Veterans], potential counter protesters, park employees and guests," Stephens wrote in denying last year's permit.
Several dozen members of the Confederate group's "mechanized cavalry" ultimately rode motorcycles around the park in lieu of holding a ceremony.