Typically, a September Saturday in downtown Dahlonega would draw early fall tourists; that was not the case for Saturday, Sept. 14, however.
The roads to the downtown Dahlonega area were closed to vehicle traffic early in the morning as city officials anticipated possible clashes between two groups with vastly different political views.
A group organized by Chester Doles led an "American Patriot Rally" on the square. Doles said he was organizing the event in response to the growth of what he called a "left-wing group" in the city.
"They've held six rallies, anti-American, anti-Trump rallies, right here on this square here in the last 18 months," Doles said. "This needed to be done, and I combined it to raise awareness to the growing dangers of socialism, not only here in Dahlonega, but across America."
One of the demonstrators, who identified himself as 'Tex', said he was joining the group to support the constitution.
"Communism, socialism or any of the rest of that ain't welcome. I'm not going to bend to live another way. If you don't like it here, you've got the option to leave," Tex said.
In response to the rally, several counter-protestors came to the square, voicing their opposition to Doles' group. Reverend Charlotte Arsenault of the Dahlonega Unitarian Universalist Church said she was concerned to see Doles' group demonstrating in the city.
"I feel awful for folks of color who live here, for folks who do not identify as Christian or straight or are on the spectrum of LGBTQ," Arsenault said.
All told, some 200 demonstrators gathered in roped-off areas on the east and west side of the Dahlonega Square. An estimated 400 law enforcement officers converged on the town to help the Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office keep the peace.
City officials say three people were arrested during the event. One person was arrested on the University of North Georgia's campus on charges of obstruction and possession of a weapon in a school safety zone. Two more were arrested just before 1:30 on North Park Street for allegedly inciting a riot.
A press release from the city said one person who suffered a heat-related issue and was treated by medical personnel.
Mayor Sam Norton issued a statement after the demonstrations, thanking law enforcement and residents for helping keep the event as peaceful as possible.
"I am humbled by this outpouring of support from our local, state, and federal partners during these events. I would also like to thank all the residents and local business owners who sent messages of support to our officers. That is a true reflection of the people who live in our small town," Norton said.
Roads in the city were re-opened to traffic at 4:00 p.m and University of North Georgia officials say the school has resumed normal operations after limiting access during the demonstrations.