Fifteen members of Respect the Flag, a group that supports the flying of the Confederate “Stars and Bars,” battle flag of the Civil War, have been indicted by a grand jury for violation of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, as well as making terroristic threats.

If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison.

The indictment was handed down following an investigation by the local police department and the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office into events arising from a July clash between the group and several people attending a party in the suburban Atlanta community.

Many of the party guests were black.

Both sides claimed that they had been acting peacefully and within the law, blaming the other for the escalation.

The Douglas County woman who hosted the party, Melissa Alford, claimed that passengers in the trucks were armed, used a racial epithet, and threatened to kill guests.

That contention was disputed a passenger who said the confrontation began when someone at the party threw an object at one of the trucks, causing a blowout when it swerved.

No one was hurt in the confrontation.

Police initially said there was insufficient evidence to conclude which group provoked the incident, but the District Attorney, Brian Fortner, stated that the investigation examined allegations made by both sides.

Fortner said the indictment alleges that Respect the Flag is a “criminal street gang” as defined by the language of the broadly worded state statute. The indictment goes on to claim that the group threatened to commit a crime of violence “with the purpose of terrorizing those individuals and in reckless disregard for the risks of causing such terror.”

In addressing the free speech rights of the indicted members of the group, Fortner indicated that the right is subject to the rights of others to “feel safe.”

Alford did not comment specifically on the indictment, but is now represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which issued a statement claiming the incident was “…reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan – modern-day night-riders terrorizing African-Americans in the name of Southern heritage.”

The SPLC has generated controversy with its “hate group” lists and was recently removed from the FBI's resource page as a resource and partner in community outreach.

 

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