About a dozen members of the militia group, Georgia Security Force III%, conducted an armed protest on the Covington Square Tuesday night.
The protest consisted of rhetoric against Islam, Muslims and the group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) being shouted through a bullhorn by a man calling himself Johnny Infidel, armed with an AR-15 rifle.
After about an hour of Johnny Infidel’s remarks, the group’s commander, Chris Hill, a Henry County resident, arrived on the Square and conducted a press conference with local and regional media.
“I’m not against freedom of religion,” Hill said. “[The Koran] is text suggesting doing things that are not peaceful.”
Hill and his group posted a video at the site of proposed mosque in Newton County on Highway 162 and County Line Road on Sunday. In the video, Hill referred to the future site of a mosque and cemetery as a possible training compound for terrorism.
Referencing the video, the Newton County Board of Commissioners cancelled a special called meeting to discuss zoning ordinances Tuesday night. During the meeting, the board was to hear from county staff on creating a new zoning classification for large developments of community impact. Several Newton County commissioners also were expected to vote to lift a moratorium that was imposed on permits for places of worship during an Aug. 16 meeting, shortly after the mosque came to light.
However, Monday afternoon the meeting was cancelled due to safety precautions stemming from the group’s social media activity.
“In this case, a self-made video circulated on social media of a militia group from a neighboring county may have been trespassing on private property, and exhibiting harassing or violent behavior,” County Manager Lloyd Kerr said in a statement released Tuesday. “Unfortunately in today’s society, uncivil threats or intentions must be taken seriously.”
During the protest, Hill said that his group was not to be blamed for the cancellation.
“I don’t believe the board of commissioners cancelled their meeting tonight because of the Georgia Security Force III%,” Hill said. “There is probably a dozen here tonight. That is roughly the amount of people we had planned on showing up here and joining the rest of the community.
“[The BOC] caved to outside pressure by CAIR to go ahead and go forward with the planned Islamic compound. This is another way for them to push forward without hearing any of those concerns and blame it on those 12 guys who said they were going to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Newton County heard the concerns from around 100 people in August when it held two town hall meetings on the proposed mosque.
One of the people to speak up for the mosque during one of the town hall meetings was Newton County resident Kendra Miller.
Miller was at the Newton County Historic Courthouse Tuesday night, across Clark Street from the militia group with almost a dozen other local residents and supporters of the mosque.
“I’m a big believer that in order to have our rights, we need to defend other rights,” Miller said.
Miller organized a group to come out in opposition of the Georgia Security Force III% from among people she met during the August town hall meetings.
“I didn’t want people to think that’s Newton County,” said Zack Ames gesturing across the street to the militia group.
Kerr released a statement earlier Tuesday saying despite the board not meeting that night, the county is still planning on moving forward with zoning changes and lifting the moratorium that was enacted on Aug. 16 and set to expire Sept. 21.
“The Board of Commissioners intends to honor the expiration date and has no plans to extend the moratorium,” Kerr said in a statement.