A grand jury in Georgia last week indicted 15 people on terror-related charges for purposely driving past a Black child's birthday party in July — where many of the attendees were Black — waving large Confederate flags, brandishing weapons and yelling threats and racial epithets.
The grand jury indictments in Douglas County, just west of Atlanta, charged 15 members of the organization Respect the Flag with violating Georgia's Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act and making terroristic threats.
According to District Attorney Brian Fortner, the charges carry 20-year prison sentences, and most of the suspects have been arrested. The indictment alleges that Respect the Flag is a "criminal street gang" that 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."
Cell phone videos posted on social media following the incident showed a convoy of at least seven pickup trucks with white passengers riding with Confederate, American and military flags mounted on their vehicles. At least one racial slur can be heard in the footage.
Melissa Alford, who hosted the birthday party, told WSB-TV 2, "They used the N-word and said they were going to kill people on my property." In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Alford added, "One had a gun, saying he was gonna kill the [racial slur]. Then one of them said gimme the gun, I'll shoot them [racial slur]."
Alford said she respects the right for people to express themselves, as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others. "I don't have a problem if that's their culture," she said. "But you've got to do it right. You can't go around just blatantly terrorizing people."
Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who is representing Alford and her guests, said the indictment was justified.
"These cowards chose unarmed African-Americans enjoying a peaceful birthday party to vent their violent racist hatred," he said in a statement, "This is reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan — modern-day night-riders terrorizing African-Americans in the name of Southern heritage."