A white nationalist’s ownership of house in Buckhead’s Peachtree Hills is being criticized by the far-left group Atlanta Antifascists, leaving the local neighborhood association divided on how to respond.
Donna Lorenz, secretary of the Peachtree Hills Civic Association, says she asked the group to issue a pro-diversity statement after the Antifascist group in August flyered the neighborhood about prominent white nationalist Sam Dickson’s ownership of a house on Ridgeland Way. The result, she says:
The board issued a generic statement that flyers are illegal and asked her to resign for speaking to the media. And Dickson joined the association – though he says it “had nothing to do with the Antifa.”
“I think they made the wrong choice, the easy choice,” Lorenz said of the civic association board. “I think it was a disservice to our membership. The community deserved an open and honest conversation about something that potentially affects all of us. The board tried to suppress that. That said, they’ve taken a stronger stand against me than against Sam Dickson.”
Ted Fleming, the civic association’s president, said the group consulted the Atlanta Police Department and “worked to remove the illegal posters” and notified its membership that such flyers on public poles are illegal. He did not directly respond to Lorenz’s report of the request that she resign — which she agreed to do — or Dickson’s civic association membership.
“Membership in the association is open to all residents of the neighborhood,” said Fleming. “The Civic Association is and has always been apolitical.”
The flyers from the antifascist or “antifa” group claimed that Dickson’s house is home to several racist or white nationalist activists and called it a “white power organizing hub.” (For Atlanta Antifascist’s comments, see an updated story here.)
Dickson said in emails that he indeed owns the house and rejoined the civic association, whose rolls he believed he was already on. He did not respond to questions about alleged political activities there. But he did strongly criticize the antifa group as “dangerous” and alleged its activists have “vandalized” other properties he owns, though later adding as an aside that “I don’t really give a damn about the Antifa and other internet attacks.”
“They are not a credible organization,” Dickson said. “They are not a ‘liberal’ organization. They are themselves what they accuse others of being — a group of fascist thugs…. The Antifa targets Caucasians who are unwilling to go to the back of the bus, ‘uppity’ Whites.”
Dickson, an attorney and real estate investor, is a well-known white nationalist who has appeared frequently in local and national media, including for his representation of a Ku Klux Klan leader in a 1988 civil trial. He often speaks and writes on white nationalist topics and has been criticized by such groups as the Southern Poverty Law Center.
He has described himself in interviews and writings as a white nationalist, but said in emails that he prefers the terms “racial communitarian” or “racial idealist.”
“I believe that European peoples have the same right to live in nations of their own that Jews claim for themselves in Israel. I believe this is a matter of simple reciprocity,” Dickson said in an email, adding, “I believe that Caucasian Americans are the victims of massive government and system-imposed discrimination.”
The Atlanta Antifascists flyers, posted in public and delivered by mail to some residents, were headlined “Neighborhood Alert,” but did not suggest any particular action. A post on the group’s website criticized Dickson and other alleged residents as involved in real estate gentrification as a white separatist tactic, and that the group wants to debunk a liberal perception that racism is only a working-class belief.
With no direct threats from anyone involved, Lorenz acknowledged, the flyers largely raised the issue of how to live with neighbors whose views you find to be offensive or repugnant. But, she said, other residents might view the situation differently and should have had the chance to discuss it, rather than the “all-white board” of the civic association making a “paternalistic” decision not to notify them.
“This is a substantially white neighborhood, but we have black and brown, gay and Jewish neighbors,” said Lorenz, a 45-year Peachtree Hills resident who had served for two years on the civic association board. “I think it is a disservice to them for the board to withhold information about a presence in the neighborhood that might be perceived by them very differently than by the all-white board.”
She said she proposed the board issue a general statement supporting diversity without naming Dickson or the property. She said it read, “The board of the PHCA will do everything in its power to assure each and every member or our community is respected, included and safe. Diversity is a preeminent value.”
The proposal failed in a 9-1 vote, she said.
Atlanta Police spokesperson Officer Stephanie Brown said a “concerned citizen” notified the police about the flyers. “Officers are aware of the concerns in the neighborhood and at this time we are monitoring any activities regarding these flyers,” she said.
Fleming, the civic association president, said safety is his group’s goal.
“Ensuring safety in the neighborhood is the core of the Peachtree Hills Civic Association’s mission, which is why we work closely with the Atlanta Police Department and invest the vast majority of our budget into a security patrol,” he said. “I strongly encourage anyone who has any reason to suspect that any kind of illegal or unsafe activity is happening to bring that information to the appropriate authorities.”
Editor’s Note: Atlanta Antifascists provided comment for this story via email, but the message was temporarily lost due to a technical error. For an updated story with the group’s comments, click here.