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Sunday, 20 June 2010

Neo Nazi Gettysburg Rally peaceful despite threats (USA)

Chambersburg resident Christopher Moats picked Saturday, June 19 to wear his Barack Obama T-shirt -- the one with the silhouette of the president and the words "The New Face of America" splashed across as the front as if in graffiti.

The wardrobe choice would seem appropriate considering the day, known as Juneteenth, marks an annual celebration of civil rights. But 16-year-old Christopher had other reasons for the shirt.

"I have a problem when anybody tries to force their views on the rest of us," Christopher said, motioning to the patch of lawn at Gettysburg National Military Park where the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations was expected to appear.
"We might have different color skin, but we're all the same on the inside," Christopher said, "we all bleed red."

On Saturday afternoon, both Aryan Nations members and protesters shouted threats to spill blood and other acts of violence across the park's lawn, just west of the old Cyclorama Center.

The Aryan Nations identifies itself as a white-supremacist organization and the group has been named a "continuing terrorist threat" by the FBI. Although park officials said they do not support the views of the group, they're still obligated to accommodate those exercising their First Amendment rights.

Multiple law enforcement agencies were in attendance during the two-hour rally, including local and national park police as well as officers from Cumberland Township and the Borough of Gettysburg. Similarly, K-9 units patrolled the surrounding areas and a National Park Service helicopter buzzed overhead.

The white supremacists carried no visible weapons, despite earlier statements from Young saying the group would be armed. Instead, members brandished flags representing the Aryan Nations, the Confederacy and white supremacy. One individual, dressed in military garb, clutched a Bible to his chest while another held a stack of papers -- which showed a fearful-looking white family and the words "Earth's Most Endangered Species."

Both Aryan Nations members and protesters were required to pass through police checkpoints -- where backpacks and pockets were searched for potential weapons -- before allowed access to the rally.

As protesters amassed, Aryan Nations Alabama State Leader Bradley Jenkins urged the opposition forward.
"Okay everybody, I would like to invite them to come and speak with us," he said.

Protesters were held in check by police forces.

"Hey hippies come here," Jenkins added. "Power to the white man you pieces of s---."

A young newswoman walked momentarily between the groups -- red hair, skirt, high heels -- moving deliberately though the tall grass.

Aryan Nations leader Gordon Young called to her -- "Honey," he said, asking if she wanted to join them. She smiled politely and put her head down while passing by.

"Here they come gentleman, get ready. Here come the devil's spawn," shouted Young, as a group of protesters advanced toward the rally point.

"Death ... Death ... death to fascists. Power ... Power ... power to the people," responded about 17 members of the communist group Progressive Labor Party.

"Aryan Nations you can't hide, we charge you with genocide," added nearly two dozen members of an approaching anarchist group. "Yo Nazis ... Yo Nazis ... what's up ... what's up. Come to our town ... we'll f--- you up."
Young shouted back, "Force will be met by force," through a PA system across the lawn.

Separating the roughly 70 protesters lawn. Police barricades kept the groups apart and officers were posted around the area.

Despite the threats, U.S. Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser said things went "smoothly" and no acts of violence had been reported.
In total, 12 Aryan Nation members participated in the rally and the group arrived in a yellow school bus, which park officials say picked them up from a private site nearby.

In the weeks prior to the rally, Young had said the group was having trouble enlisting a bus company. Drivers, he said, were afraid of rocks being thrown through bus windows.

Noel Phillips, who identified herself as one of a group of communist protesters, said she came from New York to attend the day's rally. Many of the protesters said they learned about the rally on the Internet.

"We're here to take the Battle of Gettysburg one step further against these fascist scum," she said.

Young's response came through the PA system.
"All we want is our white rights," he said, calmly now. "You give it to the Negro beasts and the Hispanics. In my opinion, the monkeys here in Yankee country should be taught a lesson by the ropes and the draggings."

The white supremacists weren't the only ones issuing threats.

Among the group of anarchists was a 21-year old who identified himself as Peter Kropotkin, after the famed Russian anarchist.

The protester said he was 16 when he had "Liberation or death" tattooed across his left forearm, scrawled in cursive with black ink. And on the underside of his right tricep, in similar script, was "This machine kills fascists."
But among those "fascists" was a boy, who couldn't have been be older than 11 -- one of the Aryan Nations members bused in for the rally. A white bandana was pulled tight across his face because, as a rule, the identities of Aryan Nations children is guarded to protect against retribution.

The adults, Young says, can handle themselves.

Short-cropped hair, gray tanktop, the boy looked like the hundreds of others that scoured the park that day -- most of them members of Boy Scout packs or camp groups. Only instead of a plastic musket an Aryan Nations flag was perched in the crook of his arm.

And a woman -- the group's only -- took his flag to block him from view while he drank from a bottle of water.

When finished, the woman replaced the bandana and wiped the sweat from his nose with her thumb. Then she returned to him the flag and together they moved to face the crowd.