At 10:00 a.m. on Sept. 27, a thin blonde girl with braces was standing under the blaze of the Riverside sky. One sunburned arm was raised above her head in a salute. In her other hand was a flag, a swastika festering in its center. Seven men and women, brandishing megaphones, stood by the blonde girl. Their t-shirts boasted “Skinhead,” “Supreme Empire” and “We’re Back.” These people are members of the National Socialist Movement, or NSM. They are perhaps better known by their colloquial labels: white supremacists, or neo-Nazis. Members of NSM believe that only white people have the right to be citizens of the United States.
The National Socialist Movement had staked out a grassy bank in front of Home Depot in Casa Blanca, a predominantly Latino barrio in Riverside. They were protesting illegal immigration, and had chosen their particular spot to target day laborers waiting for work. Their protest against illegal immigrants was met by a counter-protest against NSM itself.
Members of NSM had had permission to be in front of Home Depot until 12:30 p.m., but were gone by 10:45 a.m. Fifty to 100 counter-demonstrators had confronted the members of NSM, shouting “Nazis go home!” while police in riot gear looked on. Several day laborers watched from the shade, undeterred from seeking work.
Participants in the counter-demonstration ranged from college students to anarchists to Brown Berets. “Claremont students were very, very heavily involved,” said counter-protest organizer Al Gray (whose name has been changed to protect the speaker’s identity).
According to Gray, the demonstrators intended to ruin NSM’s plans of recruiting new members in the Inland Empire. “The idea is to deny NSM a platform that they would otherwise use to spread their message of hate,” said Gray.
As NSM members bellowed “White power!” into their megaphones, the counter-protesters shouted, rendering the words of NSM members nearly inaudible. Soon, a scuffle broke out; protesters on both sides were shoved and punched. Several counter-protesters emerged from the scuffle brandishing a tattered Nazi flag. Flicking a lighter beneath the flag, the counter-protesters watched as the nylon curled into stinking black smoke.
Some demonstrators did not approve of such confrontational tactics; Gray said that radical behavior could alienate potential supporters. But the counter-protest disbanded the NSM members one hour and 45 minutes ahead of schedule. As NSM members retreated to their cars at the edge of the parking lot, counter-protesters cheered and embraced.
“The day labor community is extremely grateful for the support,” Gray said. “Any time you see that kind of hatred in your community, it’s damaging.”
Gray said that the NSM will be back, and that counter-demonstrators will oppose them again: “Our best weapon is our creativity, our ingenuity, our intellect. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pacifist or an anarchist. It’s going to take everybody in this struggle against hatred.”
Photos by Kendra Atleework '11
- The National Socialist Movement is holding another rally this Saturday, Oct. 24, at 10:00 a.m. on the corner of Indiana and Madison in Riverside.
- For information on how to participate in the counter-rally come to the Pitzer Mounds at 8:00 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 23, or e-mail: email@example.com