Neo-Nazis draw hostile crowd in Downtown Los Angeles

Tensions flared Saturday in downtown Los Angeles when a group of neo-Nazis, rallying in front of City Hall, were met by counter-demonstrators. Flanked by a riot-ready LAPD, members of the National Socialist Movement, a white supremacist political party, spoke about their desire for a white-only nation. Speakers called for the removal of all immigrants and blamed failed immigration policies for current crime rates.

"Illegal aliens are draining our resources and taking our jobs," said Mike Schlayer, who holds the rank of captain within the NSM. "They are trying to breed us out of existence while they leech off Social Security and the welfare system."

Counter-demonstrators arrived early and were cordoned off by police tape, keeping them far from NSM members. A multitude of LAPD officers were on-site forming several columns that protected the small number of neo-Nazis.

NSM members, dressed in black fatigues, helmets and combat boots, mostly taunted counter-demonstrators by shouting racially inflammatory language, calling AIDS an "anally inflicted death sentence" and tearing up and stepping on the flags of Israel and Mexico.

"Speak English people, or get out," Schlayer said to the angry crowd of protesters.

The NSM announced at the rally their plans for this November's elections. "We're going to be running candidates soon to get seats," said NSM Southern California Regional Director Jeff Hall in a telephone interview. "That's the way we're going to reclaim the southwest."

Hall elaborated on his party's broader intentions. "Why can't we whites make a white nation?" he said. "There's nothing wrong with being white. There's nothing wrong with having our own nation."

Although counter-demonstrators acknowledged the NSM's first amendment rights, emotions still ran strong at what they considered hate-speech.

"They have the right to express whatever they want," said Ceasar Galindo, a Latino protestor who heard about the NSM rally from a friend. "They don't want us here, but I don't know…I feel upset right now. They are against everyone. That's totally wrong."

SMC student Orlando Pardo was present at the demonstration. As a first-generation American, he came to express his solidarity with immigrants. Pardo regards the NSM as a "backward movement" that is trying to scapegoat immigrants for America's economic problems.

"There's a lot of immigrant bashing going on right now," he said. "People point out immigrants as the problem, but [the real problems are] things like the war machine that we pour billions of dollars into."

John Houy attended the demonstration over a personal matter. "My father got shot by the Nazis in World War II," he said. "That's a good enough reason."

Even though he disapproves of NSM's beliefs, Houy supports the organization's right to peaceably assemble. "I believe in free speech, but I want them to understand there's a lot of people who don't like them," he said.

After the rally, the neo-Nazis were escorted by the LAPD to a parking lot on the other side of North Spring Street. Demonstrators gathered on the outside of the lot. When one NSM member's car failed to start, demonstrators began throwing bottles and rocks, causing the neo-Nazis to use shields to protect themselves while they attempted to jump-start the vehicle. No one was hurt in the incident, but one member's car was damaged.

Jim Lafferty, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles Chapter, acted as a legal observer for the demonstrators. He said there were a few instances of police using their batons and pushing over demonstrators in an attempt to secure the parking lot.

LAPD reported five arrests for minor vandalism due to throwing eggs and rocks.

Reporting assisted by John Stapleton IV and Carly Gillis.