Confrontation With Black Partygoers Leads to Gang Charges for White Group
In an unusual legal maneuver, the district attorney in this suburb of Atlanta said Monday that he had won indictments against 15 supporters of the Confederate battle flag, accusing them of violating the state’s anti-street-gang statute during a confrontation with black partygoers in July.
Prosecutors say that members of the group, which calls itself Respect the Flag, threatened a group of blacks attending an outdoor birthday party on July 25.
Several criminal lawyers and legal scholars said Monday that they could not recall other instances in which a state anti-gang statute had been used to prosecute a Confederate heritage group in the Deep South. The first version of Georgia’s anti-gang law was passed in 1992 at the behest of Atlanta’s police chief at the time, Eldrin Bell.
The state’s General Assembly, in the law’s statement of intent, noted that citizens retained their rights to freedom of expression and association. But it also declared that Georgia was in a “state of crisis which has been caused by violent criminal street gangs whose members threaten, terrorize and commit a multitude of crimes against the peaceful citizens of their neighborhoods.”
The anti-gang law defines a “criminal street gang” as “any organization, association or group of three or more persons associated in fact, whether formal or informal,” that engages in or conspires to commit a defined set of serious criminal acts. The law gives prosecutors numerous ways to define the existence of a gang, including sharing signs, symbols, tattoos, graffiti or “common activities.”
There’s something oddly satisfying about a bunch on racist rednecks being indicted on a law designed to confront black street gangs.
The party occurred on a Saturday at the home of Melissa Alford, 44. On Monday, Ms. Alford showed the side street where, she said, the trucks had pulled over and begun to harass her guests. She said she saw one of them with a rifle or shotgun, and heard one racial epithet used. She said that none of her guests threw rocks.
Ms. Alford said that she worked with at-risk youth as part of a nonprofit she founded. Some of them, she said, have been identified by the authorities as gang members. She said the men in the trucks deserved the same treatment.
“Just like the Crips,” she said, “if they’re out there doing some foolishness like this, they’re going to get charged.”