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Georgia park featuring Confederate memorial closed down Saturday over safety concerns about protesters

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 2/2/2019 Peter Sblendorio
a flock of seagulls in a pool of water with Stone Mountain in the background © John Bazemore / AP

A prominent park in Georgia featuring a controversial memorial of three Confederate leaders was closed Saturday amid safety concerns stemming from protesters potentially demonstrating there.

Counterprotesters had been expected to show up at Stone Mountain Park on Saturday after a group of white nationalists initially expressed a desire to hold a rally there.

The white nationalists were denied a permit to hold a rally on Saturday when they requested it back in November, and they had since called off their plans to carry out the demonstration entirely.

Park officials, however, were still anticipating the counter-protesters to come.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to close the park today,” Stone Mountain Memorial Association spokesman John Bankhead told the Daily News.

The Super Bowl is being held in Atlanta on Sunday, bringing an estimated 1 million tourists to town. Stone Mountain Park is a major attraction in Georgia, but park officials didn’t want to take any chances.

“Our priority is the safety and welfare of the visiting public,” Bankhead said.

The spokesman said park officials wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened in April 2016 when white nationalists held a rally there.

Counterprotesters clashed with police officers who attempted to prevent them from engaging in conflict with the nationalists. The incident involved counterprotests setting a barricade ablaze and throwing items at police, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Bankhead also said there were concerns about enlisting enough law enforcement to keep the area safe, as many officials are working events connected to Super Bowl weekend.

The memorial at the park, which is carved into the side of a mountain, features Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Although it was closed to the general public, the park remained open to hotel and campground guests on Saturday.

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