HuffPost’s Christopher Mathias published a story last night about a very small Nazi rally in Georgia which led to the arrest of a few Antifa counter-protesters who refused to remove their masks.

Police officers arrived before the rally began and approached a group of about 50 anti-fascist protesters. They demanded the protesters remove their masks or face arrest. The officers — who wore bulletproof vests and helmets, and carried semi-automatic rifles — cornered the anti-fascist protesters, then grabbed those who were still masked, tossing them to the ground and handcuffing them.

At one point, an officer pointed what seemed to be a modified AR-15 at the faces of counterprotesters, none of whom appeared to be armed.

The lead officer in the arrests said the counterprotesters were breaking a state law regarding masks, likely referring to a seldom-enforced 1951 law originally aimed at combating hooded Ku Klux Klan members. Anti-fascist protesters ― many belonging to chapters of antifa groups, known for sometimes violently confronting white supremacists ― often wear masks to avoid being identified by both law enforcement and neo-Nazis.

“The irony of enforcing masking laws to prosecute leftists is just incredible,” said Molly, a counterprotester from Charlottesville, Virginia, who traveled to Georgia to protest neo-Nazis. She asked that her last name not be published for fear of retribution. “Those are anti-Klan statutes.”

Video from the scene, also shot by Mathias, shows that the Nazi rally itself was a pathetic gathering of maybe 30 people, none of whom are masked and all of whom should be ashamed to be this stupid:

Mathias reports that he saw one person from each side carrying a rifle, which is legal in Georgia. Here’s the anti-fascist guy:

What is not legal in Georgia, as mentioned above, is wearing a mask. Police warned protesters several times they would need to remove them or be arrested.

Some refused and wound up getting arrested:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a story about the law in question back in 2016. Note that this story also involved progressive counter-protesters who were becoming violent toward the police:

Confronted with an angry crowd that threw rocks and smoke bombs, police at Stone Mountain Park Saturday turned to a seldom-used Georgia law making it illegal to wear a mask.

With a few exceptions – like Halloween, theater productions and sporting events – it is against the law in the state to wear face coverings, like masks…

Saturday’s events unfolded after about two-dozen white power supporters showed up at a “Rock Stone Mountain” rally at the DeKalb County park. Counter-protesters marching under the name All Out ATL wrangled, sometimes violently, with police as they strove to confront the white supremacists, confined to a remote parking lot. A few hundred counter-protesters walked into the park trying to reach the rally. At one point they were blocked by police in riot gear and darted through woods trying to flank the authorities.

Some were wearing Guy Fawkes-like masks favored by the online activist group Anonymous. Others wore ski masks or draped bandanas across the lower half of their faces.

Finally, it’s worth noting that while Mathias, the HuffPost reporter, is very worked up about the “militarized” police, he seems to have forgotten that one of the main problems in the deadly Charlottesville riot was that police were not properly equipped and chose to stand by as neo-Nazis and counter-protesters taunted one another and began to fight. That’s not my conclusion, that’s the conclusion of the independent review performed by a group hired by the city of Charlottesville to find out what happened. Here’s a sample of that report:

The planning and coordination breakdowns prior to August 12 produced disastrous results. Because of their misalignment and lack of accessible protective gear, officers failed to intervene in physical altercations that took place in areas adjacent to Emancipation Park. VSP directed its officers to remain behind barricades rather than risk injury responding to conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters. CPD commanders similarly instructed their officers not to intervene in all but the most serious physical confrontations. Neither agency deployed available field forces or other units to protect public safety at the locations where violence took place. Instead, command staff prepared to declare an unlawful assembly and disperse the crowd. When violence was most prevalent, CPD commanders pulled officers back to a protected area of the park, where they remained for over an hour as people in the large crowd fought on Market Street.

The report said this refusal to engage was part of a (very dumb) strategy. When told there were skirmishes taking place, Police Chief Thomas reportedly said: “Let them fight.” He apparently intended to let things get violent so that police could declare an unlawful assembly and shut down the event. But what actually happened was that tension increased and police were unable to keep control as fights broke out sporadically.  The report even called the vehicle attack which killed Heather Heyer a “manifestation” of this law enforcement failure.

In other words, one of the main lessons of Charlottesville was that police must aggressively confront and separate the combatants. That means being equipped for possible conflict from the start to avoid being forced to waste time gearing up later. I think that’s what you’re mostly seeing in those videos above, i.e. police showing up heavily armed and projecting force in order to let everyone there know they are in charge and this is not going to be a free-for-all on the streets. It’s when police don’t take such action that scuffles escalate and people get hurt.