Fifteen people have been indicted on gang terrorism charges for disrupting a black family's outdoor party in Georgia with a convoy of cars that prominently displayed Confederate flags.
A Douglass County grand jury handed down the indictments on Friday against 10 men and five women, all members of group known as "Respect the Flag," which advocates for displaying the Confederate emblem. The charges, ranging from terroristic threats to violations against the state's anti-street gang laws, were related to a July 25 confrontation in a residential neighborhood located roughly 20 miles outside of Atlanta. Two of the men were also charged with battery for a separate incident at a gas station that same day.
Cellphone video emerged showing a convoy of pickup trucks cruising by an outdoor party while flying Confederate flags from the back of their vehicles. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which is providing legal representation for some of the party-goers, witnesses say members of the group brandished weapons and yelled racial slurs before a confrontation ensued.
Imagery of the Confederate flag has been a source of particular contention since June, when a white gunman walked into a historic black church in South Carolina, killing nine people. Photographs of the shooter showed him posing next to the battle emblem, and the connection prompted a nationwide push to remove the racially charged symbol from public spaces.
Morris Dees, chief trial counsel at SPLC, said in a statement that he applauded the district attorney's "foresight and courage" in bringing the charges.
“These cowards chose unarmed African Americans enjoying a peaceful birthday party to vent their violent racist hatred,” he said in the statement. “This is reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan – modern-day night-riders terrorizing African Americans in the name of Southern heritage."