Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Southeast
Report from counter-mobilization against neo-Nazi pro-Trump rally in Dahlonega, Georgia in September.
Update 12/1/2019: We have also discovered that Doles’ September 14th rally was attended by a convicted child molester, Archie Lee Atwell.
On September 14, white power organizer Chester Doles held an ostensibly pro-Trump “American Patriots” rally in the small city of Dahlonega, north Georgia. Doles’ rally, organized and promoted with other white supremacists, attracted somewhere between three dozen and fifty participants. An anti-racist counter-protest on the other side of the downtown square attracted three times that many.
Over six hundred police from 36 different agencies swamped the area, with multiple cops for every person in the protests. During the rally, Doles blamed “antifa” for driving down numbers for his event.
A report from the September 14 counter-protest on the IdaVox anti-racist news site provides a good overview of the day. Here, we discuss Dole’s organizing efforts and how they were resisted, beyond just the day of the rally.
When our organization first issued an alert about Doles’ upcoming rally, we made clear that Doles’ white supremacist ideology was not merely in the past. Doles – a self-described “fourth-generation Klansman” – led the Maryland group of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and then later the Georgia state chapter for the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization. In recent years Doles has been active with Crew 38, the feeder club for the white supremacist Hammerskin Nation gang, even speaking at the Hammerskins’ national gathering in Georgia, 2016. In 2017, when a Ku Klux Klan sign was displayed prominently on a building in downtown Dahlonega, Doles appeared to be in on the stunt.  Doles’ rally this year was promoted by Arkansas neo-Nazi leader Billy Roper of the ShieldWall Network, as well as on the notorious Stormfront forum.
Doles’ September rally, initially billed as a “Salute to President Trump”, had two aims. First, Doles aimed to intimidate. Doles claimed on the initial flyer for his rally that the event’s purpose was to “say ‘NO’ to Antifa in Lumpkin County” (Dahlonega is in Lumpkin County). Paperwork for Doles’ rally indicated that Doles viewed a local mainstream liberal organization as his “Antifa” enemy in the area. That same organization had flyers for the National Alliance left on their vehicles during their meeting in March. Doles’ second goal was to build alliances between hardcore white nationalists and the broader Right. To explain his thinking, Doles has cited former National Alliance leader William Pierce. Pierce argued that the white power movement required allies “inside the gates” – that is, in positions of establishment power and influence – in addition to revolutionary energy. Doles sees building a broader political front as a first step to acquire allies and resources for his movement. Explicit white nationalists have been increasingly isolated since 2017’s “Unite the Right” disaster, and so this need for allies is felt acutely.
When our organization issued an alert about Doles’ rally, we stressed the importance of North Georgia residents responding to Doles’ efforts:
“Much depends on how locals in North Georgia choose to oppose this event […] We are confident that just as Lumpkin County residents rallied against a Klan sign in 2017, they will voice their opposition to a white power rally now.”
Although a white supremacist-organized rally rightly concerned anti-racists throughout the South, we recognized that North Georgia residents would be most impacted by increased activity from Doles, who would likely continue organizing after his rally. Therefore, anti-racists in the area needed to network and build capacity to respond. Our group saw our role as complimenting responses from North Georgia residents, encouraging others to show up, and continuing to monitor and document as events unfolded. The Socialist Coalition of North Georgia (SCoNG), a multi-tendency leftist group in the region, announced that they would publicly protest Doles’ rally soon after IdaVox/OnePeoplesProject and our organization notified the public.
A pro-Trump rally is being organized in #Dahlonega #Georgia by neo-Nazis, many with records of racist attacks and who openly advocate genocide, yet the local #GOP refuses to comment. https://t.co/R8z2M62Rl5
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 7, 2019
Since Doles was attempting to build alliances with pro-Trump Republicans and the hard Right, we tried to break these potential alliances. Bikers for Trump, who at first endorsed Doles’ rally, withdrew after national director Dale Herndon was provided with documentation. We also began pressuring Republicans in the area to disavow the event, since the Lumpkin County Republican Party had initially given Doles’ event a nod and a wink on social media, and Georgia 9th District Representative Doug Collins was listed on early versions of the rally flyer as “invited” to speak. When the story of Doles’ rally broke in the media early September, Rep. Collins issued a statement to the press that he would “continue to denounce […] hate”. This complicated Doles’ effort to promote his rally as merely a pro-Trump, patriotic event. In contrast, the Republican Party of Lumpkin County refused to officially endorse or condemn the rally.
Doles’ responded to increased scrutiny in three ways. First, Doles attempted to distance himself from his own event, emphasizing that his name was no longer on the permit application for the rally. Dustin Penner, Doles’ next-door neighbor, submitted a new permit application. Doles’ pretense was unconvincing, since Doles remained the primary person networking for and promoting the event. Most of the rally organizing took place through Doles’ Facebook page until Facebook deleted that profile.
Second, Doles claimed that anti-racist mobilization by SCoNG, as well as alerts from our organization, confirmed all his earlier fantasies. This framing conveniently ignored that anti-racists were responding to organizing by a longtime neo-Nazi and that Doles had been harassing locals under the pretext of fighting “antifa” before anti-fascists said a word.
Finally, Doles and supporters upped their tough talk and veiled threats, perhaps believing this would cause anti-racists to step down. Doles boasted of his burly security team and hinted at vehicular assault against counter-protesters. Our group documented the threats from Doles’ camp while also trying to keep this talk in perspective.
Approximately two and a half weeks from Doles’ rally, the City of Dahlonega gave its first major indication of how it would cope with and facilitate the event. On August 28, the City of Dahlonega issued a public statement about the downtown rally. The City used Doles’ preferred language, describing the event as one by “Conservative Citizens” rallying for the President and not identifying the organizer as an active white supremacist. The City portrayed the situation as one of “different opinions” and issued stern warnings to those who may be “expecting to cause trouble” or considering “civil disobedience or violence”. The statement has now been scrubbed from the City’s website, but screenshots are here.
That same evening, Chester Doles appeared on the white nationalist podcast The Right Voice, boasting that Dahlonega City Marshal Jeff Branyon had promised him “zero tolerance” policing of anti-racist protesters. Although Doles may have twisted some of Branyon’s words, Doles’ confidence that authorities would focus their attention on anti-racists was well-founded. Georgia authorities generally consider Newnan in 2018 – where militarized police flooded the area and preemptively attacked anti-Nazi protesters – as a successful model for future mobilization. Nationally, law enforcement has also prioritized cracking down on anti-fascists, although the Pittsburgh and El Paso massacres may have led to some belated reassessment of the threat posed by white supremacists.
Since he was liaising with authorities over the rally, Doles began to drop his unsustainable pose of merely being a supporter and promoter of the event. At roughly the same time, Doles accepted help from another Georgia racist, Michael Carothers AKA Michael Weaver, as a rally spokesperson and publicist. Carothers was previously involved in the notorious World Church of the Creator (now “Creativity”) and was the National Alliance’s “Activist of the Year” in 2008. Carothers/Weaver not only shares with Doles a past in the National Alliance, but also a violent history. He was imprisoned for a 2010 assault against a Black man in Columbus, Georgia – Carothers remains on probation from the incident and is banished from a six-county area until this is completed. Earlier this year, Carothers assisted organizing for the failed “Rock Stone Mountain II” white power rally. Despite spending a couple of weeks helping to organize Doles’ rally, Carothers did not publicly show his face on the day.
With Doles reassured of overwhelming policing for his event, tough talk from Doles and his followers became muted. A September 1st announcement on Weaver/Carothers’ “White Information Network” blog stressed that “Any talk of illegal activity or actions and you’ll be banned from the event” – a change from the posturing of just days earlier. Carothers promoted the upcoming rally more as a “free speech” event than a pro-Trump one. This allowed other speakers to be incorporated into the event, who were a difficult fit for Doles’ pro-Trump framing. Jovanni Valle (“Jovi Val”) of New York was the first to be announced. Valle is a former Trump supporter and Proud Boy who now organizes with white nationalists and celebrates Adolf Hitler, criticizing his old “Alt-lite” associates.
Before the Dahlonega Nugget and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published their first articles on the approaching rally – which correctly highlighted Doles’ white supremacist involvement – a rightwing news site attempted to sanitize this rally and spread fear about anti-fascists. FetchYourNews (FYN), a local news site for North Georgia, deemphasized Doles’ Klan and neo-Nazi involvement, choosing instead to stir residents against an alleged invasion by antifa “thugs”. The effect of the FYN story – and a follow-up post stressing Doles’ alleged peaceful intentions – was to give a small boost to the “American Patriots” rally at a time when organizers were struggling to attract numbers. Meanwhile, our group continued with our actual strategy. To maintain pressure on Doles and to complement the counter-rally organizing by SCoNG, we mailed 250 of Dole’s neighbors with a flyer about his white supremacist history just hours before the FYN article went online.
As the extent of Doles’ white supremacist commitments became evident, some on the Right grew squeamish and withdrew support for the Dahlonega event. Others saw no issue with supporting the Dahlonega rally despite knowing the main organizer’s ideology. A rightwing “Patriot” group led by William Tex Simmons of Dahlonega – the Brotherhood of Constitutional Patriots (BCP) – advertised the upcoming rally and pledged to attend. When criticized, Simmons insisted he was the target of hate just for being a pro-Constitution patriot. Elsewhere, Simmons admitted that Doles was a white supremacist “as far as I know” but that his group would join Doles because “I won’t set [sic] and watch antifa destroy our town like they do everywhere they go.”
Similarly, a pro-Confederate group named the Confederate Patriot Rebels (CPR) – largely organized by Cindy Faye Border of Cleveland, Georgia – committed to join Doles’ rally. On a Facebook livestream, Border argued that attending a white supremacist-organized rally was not a big deal, since there was probably a member of the Klan at “nine out of ten” events her organization attends. On September 14, Border and others from CPR showed up with a couple of members of the Hiwaymen, another pro-Confederate group that rallies with white supremacists.
“American Patriots” organizing stumbled along. By Sunday the 8th, three more speakers were announced on the “White Information Network” blog. Two of these – David Weikle and William Carter of South Carolina – failed to materialize at the rally. Charles Edward Lincoln III of Louisiana, a disbarred lawyer who serves as Treasurer for the white nationalist American Freedom Party, was the only pre-announced speaker other than Valle to show up on the day. Valle and Lincoln both previously talked at the dismal “Unite the Right II” rally in Washington, DC, 2018.
On Friday the 6th, Doles’ Facebook account was deleted by Facebook for unknown reasons, leaving the “White Information Network” blog and his account on VKontakte as the rally’s main communication platforms. At some point, Doles was also forced to abandon his plans for a post-rally gathering at a nearby park pavilion, which he simply stopped talking about to supporters.
Meanwhile, the SCoNG built for their counter-rally, reaching out to left-wing organizations, faith groups, and directly to Dahlonega residents. The Coalition hoped to build as broad a counter-rally as possible, highlighting widespread opposition to white supremacists attempting to gain any sort of foothold. In addition, SCoNG aimed to normalize anti-racist protest and to deepen community ties, in case white supremacists stepped up efforts in the aftermath of their rally.
Dahlonega authorities outlined their plans for Doles’ rally and the anti-racist counter-event the week before the rally. As expected, the City would barricade off separate protest areas for both groups, with the center of the downtown square between them and only accessible by police. In order to attend either rally, one would first need to go through a checkpoint and be searched for an extensive list of prohibited items. Such enclosed protest areas have been increasingly common in the South in the aftermath of Unite the Right, 2017 – not only being imposed in Newnan, Georgia but also in Murfreesboro, Tennessee before that. While these areas are often called free speech zones, their imposition discourages participation in protest, by making things as uncomfortable as possible for participants.
Atlanta Antifascists’ final intervention before the rally was releasing information on Doles’ Lumpkin County battery charges to Twitter. These charges stem from a December 2016 brawl in Dahlonega which also involved other members of the white supremacist Hammerskin Nation/Crew 38, though Doles was the only person charged. See here for more extensive documentation. Doles organized his far-Right rally while still completing his probation from the battery plea deal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution picked up the story on the eve of Doles’ rally, likely further souring residents on the event.
On the day of the rally, Doles assembled with Klansmen before marching in. For information on the SCK-KKK, a Klan group that provided at least four members/supporters at the core of Doles’ rally, see our separate article here. In addition to the SCK Klan group, Roy Pemberton, the former grand dragon for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia, was also part of the main group that entered with Doles. Pemberton left the Loyal White Knights in 2017 due to an internal mutiny over the behavior of the group’s main leader, but he does not seem to have abandoned the white supremacist movement.
At least one supporter for a third Klan group, the International Keystone Knights of the KKK, also entered and protested with Doles’ group. This individual did not publicly broadcast his IKK affiliations on the 14th, but he appeared in public again with Doles the following month. That time, he boasted an International Keystone Knights sweatshirt. Although Doles may no longer be a formal member of the Klan, at least a half dozen supporters of various Klan factions were at the very center of his protest.
In addition to the Klansmen, members of the Augusta-area Nationalist Liberty Union (NLU) – John Daniel Martin and Paul Michael Lovett – also marched in and rallied with Doles. The Nationalist Liberty Union is a small organization whose “mission is to unify America as a Euro-centric Christian nation”. While the group claims that “We are not for separation as some White Nationalists and Southern Nationalists advocate” but merely opposes “anti-White policies”, these quibbles do not matter in practice. Daniel Martin has a past with the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens – the successor of the segregationist White Citizens’ Councils – and marched at Unite the Right in Charlottesville. Paul Lovett is listed as a contributor to Michael Weavers/Carothers’ “White Information Network” blog. The NLU may have also helped recruit the former campaign chairman for neo-Nazi David Duke, William Carter of South Carolina, to speak at the Dahlonega rally, since the NLU has rallied with Carter before. (Though announced as a speaker, Carter skipped the Dahlonega event.)
Doles was also joined by two of his children at the rally. We will not name one due to her age. The other, Pierce Rockwell Doles, is now an adult. In early 2017, Pierce Doles gave an interview to TV news, supporting the KKK sign in downtown Dahlonega. On social media, Pierce Doles flaunts his racism and has been photographed wearing gear for the white supremacist National Alliance. Doles can be seen in our photo galleries from September 14, dressed in an orange t-shirt that day.
By the time Doles marched in with his main group of supporters, others had already assembled in the “Patriots” area, for example Cindy Border and the Confederate Patriot Rebels. Also waiting was Lucretia Hughes, a Black pro-Trump commentator who had been added as a surprise speaker by the rally organizers. Hughes insisted that she was at the Dahlonega rally just to support Trump. Discussing her later on The Right Voice white nationalist podcast, Chester Doles referred to Hughes as the organizers’ “Trojan horse”. A Trojan horse is, of course, used to mislead about one’s intentions and to encourage others to let their guard down. While it is unfortunate that Hughes assisted in this façade, it is unclear that many people were actually misled by her presence at the rally.
Across the downtown square, a much larger anti-racist protest rallied despite highly restrictive conditions. Hundreds of police from dozens of agencies saturated the downtown area, with many deployed in riot gear as a not-so-subtle threat. Interestingly, police allowed firearms in the protest zones, but banned ammunition. Restrictions were applied unequally, with much more focus on controlling anti-racists. When individual “Patriots” entered the anti-racist protest area, police saw no issue; when two anti-racists entered Doles’ protest area and began chanting, they were arrested on riot charges. (A third arrest was mentioned in the media but does not appear directly related to the protests.) Police even stepped in to help Doles with his P.A. system when Doles had difficulties setting it up.
After hyping the event for months, Doles’ rally was underwhelming, with even rally speakers noting the low attendance. Having received a permit for fifty to five hundred people, the event probably did not hit the bottom number. One interesting late-comer to the event, Tennessee neo-Nazi Kynan Dutton, arrived wearing a Nazi t-shirt to complement his swastika neck tattoo. Dutton – representing the white supremacist ShieldWall Network – left together with Doles and several Klansmen, presumably to the after-event at Doles’ home.
"Pro-Trump" rally organized by neo-Nazis and former KKK member in #Dahlonega #Georgia linked to decades of violent racist attacks are promoting violence against antifascist and anti-racist counter-protesters on social media. Event is planned for this Saturday. https://t.co/RloxRj9VRZ
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 11, 2019
Although his rally did not attract the numbers he had hoped, Doles has subsequently put on a brave face and described it on a podcast appearance as a “great success”. Any scenario in which he got to rally at all would be described in such terms. While his rally did attract some people – including locals – outside his white supremacist base, he fell extremely short of his ambitions. A much larger group counter-protested. After a few busy weeks of organizing, anti-racists in the region are now far better connected with each other. According to The Dahlonega Nugget, the cost for Doles’ rally and the massive police show of force has hit almost $100,000.
With the rally over, at least two law enforcement agencies issued social media posts tacitly admitting that they were focused on policing “antifa” or framing the demonstrations as patriots versus antifa. The posts were later retracted or qualified, but not before causing a stir online. In Chattooga County – which borders Lumpkin – criticism of the Sheriff’s wording led to four Democrat officials including the Sheriff switching affiliations to the Republican Party. While Doles has bizarrely claimed this as a victory, the switch of rightwing Democrats to the GOP would have likely happened eventually anyway.
Following the rally, Doles has launched “American Patriots USA” as a vehicle for future alliance-building with the broader hard-Right and pro-Trump “patriots”. American Patriots USA had a float in the “Gold Rush Days” community parade in Dahlonega approximately one month after Doles’ rally. In addition to family members, Doles was accompanied by a supporter dressed in an International Keystone Knights sweatshirt – this same person was at Doles’ September rally, though he did not wear obvious Klan gear then.
Despite September 14th mostly falling flat, Doles appears determined to press on with organizing, seeing opportunity in elections next year. Due to intensive organizing against his rally – documentation and outreach by our group but more importantly organizing by North Georgia residents – Doles is not in a strong position, although he could still gain ground. One of the nominally non-racist “patriot” groups that supported Doles’ rally, the Brotherhood of Constitutional Patriots, is sympathetic to further coordination with white nationalists in the rally’s aftermath. On Facebook, the Nationalist Liberty Union advertised an informal BCP event, which NLU was seemingly invited to attend. BCP leader Tex Simmons also features a picture of September 14 as the masthead for his new Twitter account, where he follows Chester Doles.
For anti-racists, the struggle against far-Right and white supremacist organizing in North Georgia is far from over. The large anti-racist counter-rally in Dahlonega – assembled in under a month – is however a step forward. The organizing done during this time significantly cut into the success of Doles’ event. Despite earlier veiled threats from authorities and militarized policing focused on anti-racists during the day, a large and spirited demonstration took place. We have been told that even many residents who were earlier inclined to ignore Doles’ rally – believing this would somehow reduce his power – in retrospect understand the importance of public opposition. If white nationalists may have gained a few alliances from their Dahlonega rally, that is a problem. However, anti-racists in the region are now better connected, better organized, and most importantly confident. There may be battles ahead, but this is a great start.
If you have information on any of the racist organizers mentioned here, or other white supremacist organizing in our state, please get in contact.
 Not only did Doles appear on the scene when residents protested the Klan sign in Dahlonega, but a flyer for Doles’ personal training business was displayed in the window of the same building. Doles’ son Pierce gave an interview to the media describing the KKK signage as just “proud of being white”.
When the Klan sign and flags came down, they were removed by workers from Homer Carver Roofing & Repair – who likely also erected them. Homer Carver is the son of Daniel Carver, who was the grand dragon (highest-ranking member in the state/main state organizer) for the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan before that organization folded in 1993. Interestingly, the Invisible Empire, Knights of the KKK is the same organization that Doles led in the state of Maryland.