A black family in Douglasville only wanted to celebrate their son’s 8th birthday outdoors. And everything was going good until a convoy of Confederate Battle Flag-bearing pickup trucks interrupted the party.
It happened in July, 2015. Just a month after the Charleston shooting. A group named Respect the Flag was travelling around the city waving the Confederate flags. They came across the birthday party.
At least seven pickup trucks displaying Confederate flags pulled up on property of Melissa Alford. People inside the trucks were waving the flags and shouting, threatening to “kill y’all, niggers.” Some witnesses claimed that the intruders were armed.
“I’m okay with the flags, I’m okay with riding around with the flags,” Alford said. “I’m not okay with them going around threatening people and using racial slurs. I’m not okay with that. “
One of the trucks’ drivers — Levi Bush — told a very different story. “We’re being publicized as the KKK and that’s not us.” According to him, the group was driving around conducting a fundraiser and the reason they stopped on the grass near the birthday party was because he got a flat tire. He said people at the predominately-black birthday party approached his group in a hostile manner and that’s when the situation escalated. Bush also claimed that there were black and Mexican people with him in the trucks.
At first, no one even was arrested. And it was doubtful: if there was anything criminal in the Respect the Flag members’ behavior or the black people’s company. “Officers on scene were given conflicting statements as to what led up to the confrontation. We do not have any evidence of any shots fired nor were there any reports of a physical altercation taking place.” No one was injured.
But a year and a half later, it turns out to be obvious that those Respect the Flag members committed a hate crime and aggravated assault.
A Douglas County judge sentenced Jose Ismael Torres and Kayla Rae Norton to 13 and 6 years in prison respectively. They are charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats and street gang terrorism. The two people were crying while listening to the judge sentence. Probably, they should had thought about the consequences before terrorizing people.
“Justice has been served,” Melissa Alford said to the Daily News.
Prosecutors have said that the cases against Torres, Norton and other defendants are not based on their right to fly a Confederate flag, but on threats against the victims.
“This is behavior that even supporters of the Confederate battle flag can agree is criminal and shouldn’t be allowed,” Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner said in a statement.
A grand jury indicted 15 people in the “Respect the Flag” group, which said that victims had thrown objects at them, on street gang terrorism charges for the birthday party disruption. Georgia Department of Corrections efforts show that Thomas Charles Summers was convicted of terrorist threats and battery, and sentenced to six years in prison last year. Others who were less involved pleaded guilty and were put into diversion program.