On August 29, 2021, under the Georgia sun’s sweltering heat, the Georgia Capitol Building in Atlanta stood in a state of lockdown. Amidst online chatter surrounding a planned rally coordinated between unstable militia leader Chris Hill’s III% Security Force and the Georgia contingent of the astroturfed-by-Germans anti-vax “Worldwide Freedom Rally”, armed counter protesters and law enforcement stood ready. Hill called for a pre-rally at the Capitol ahead of an anti-vaccination rally at Piedmont Park. A total of 6 militia members showed up armed downtown. A few other “activists” aimlessly wandered the area. All in all, the operation was a complete bust.
Even before the event, the Telegram channel dedicated to the event hosted tremendous in-fighting, largely spurred on by Hill. Members of the chat called Hill “a fed”, “an informant”, “unstable”, and warned against allying with him. Likely, Hill viewed this event as an easy photo op and a narrative win for his group. Hill and his militia face ongoing consequences, including arrests and raids, from members taking part in the 6 January storming of the US Capitol. After the event, admins kicked Hill from the Telegram group.
Historically, right-wing organizing in Atlanta falls flat. Armed antifascists and plainclothes journalists far outnumbered Hill and his militia at the State Capitol. The only occurrence for the militia came as an unhoused individual of color confronted the men. The man discerned, correctly, that the armed white men in camouflage likely held far-right extremists beliefs and reacted accordingly. While DSRW observed the altercation from afar, the armed militiamen, who were spat upon, did not engage with the individual. The militia men were heard complaining about the encounter later. Hill’s promised guest speaker, failed GOP candidate and former militia member Michael Boggus, never showed.
At Piedmont Park, Hill and his group entered the park, stayed for less than one hour, and left, leaving behind one lone member holding an American flag, who the core group failed to link with in the park. According to his posts in the Telegram chat, he found his tires slashed after an uneventful time waving his American flag in the park. Several of the members, including Hill himself, carried holstered handguns, while one individual openly carried an AR-style long gun. Notably, the part of Piedmont Park where the militia gathered was recently the site of a murder. The presence of a man open-carrying a long gun caused visible concern for citizens in the park. The militia men gathered mere feet away from a memorial for the victim.
Aside from the III% presence, less than five other individuals associated with the anti-vax event were thought to be in or around the park on Sunday. A few wandered through the crowded public space, searching for the event. Others announced their arrival on Telegram but remained unseen. Signs denoting disdain for Hill and the III% militia sprung up around Piedmont Park. Fresh graffiti around the area denounced the group. The heat, limited parking, overall lack of familiarity with the city, and little to no coordination contributed significantly to the low turnout. Robust countermeasures also contributed.
Sunday remained quiet in Atlanta, but in other cities across the US, anti-vax and anti-mask protests from the “Worldwide Freedom Rally” network gained more traction. In Harrisburg, PA, and Santa Monica, CA, over two hundred demonstrators gathered for events under the same banner of the. Meanwhile, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, members of the Patriot Front disseminated white nationalist propaganda materials. While seemingly sparse, these events hold significance. With vaccine numbers in the United States hovering just over 50% and the prospect of a long infectious winter and additional lockdowns, this lackluster muster may come as an exception rather than a rule.
The group already announced their next planned rally, set to occur in two and half weeks at Piedmont Park.
Note: DSRW would like to thank those in the community who gave up their valuable time to lend their presence at this event. Your work is not unnoticed.