On August 24, white supremacists representing the National Alliance, the World Church of the Creator, and neo-nazi skinhead groups marched in D.C. for a rally at the Capitol. They were met by angry anti-fascist and anti-racist counter-demonstrators, while the police--out in full force--struggled to maintain distance between the two sides.
Under heavy police escort, an estimated 200-300 white supremacists marched from Washington D.C.'s Union Station to the Capitol building for a self-proclaimed rally against Israel on Saturday. The National Alliance, the World Church of the Creator, and neo-nazi skinhead groups were represented among the marchers, who carried flags adorned with the logos of these organizations and including a few swastikas. Bearing banners with slogans like, "Israel, the terrorist nation," and "Why no diversity in Israel?" the fascist demonstrators chanted, "What do we want? Jews out."
Two hundred or so anti-fascist and anti-racist counter-demonstrators tried to keep the neo-Nazis from their destination; however, despite several attempts to rush the marchers, contact was limited mostly to shouting matches as police on horseback and motorcycles maintained a significant distance between the two sides.
A few counter-demonstrators were arrested, and Indymedia observed an instance of an officer knocking a fairly large rock out of the hands of a counter-protester. The officer warned this anti-racist activist. In Baltimore, 28 anti-racist activists were arrested at the Baltimore Travel Plaza, charged with using violent means to keep white supremacists from boarding buses to D.C. (For Indymedia's preliminary reports on the arrests see baltimore.indymedia.org/newswire/display/1458/index.php
In D.C., anger towards the white supremacists reached a boiling point in chants like, "Death to the nazis!," and was also directed toward the police. Anti-racist activists, frustrated by the protection granted to the fascists, shouted, "Killer cops means we got to fight back." One woman screamed at the police line, "Would your grandmother be proud of you right now?"
Protesters were kept too far across the street from the Capitol grounds to hear the white supremacists' speeches, which appeared to go on for about an hour. Jason Hayden, a neo-nazi from Jeannette, Pennsylvania, told IMC reporters that he was in D.C. to "protest in defiance of Israel." He called Jews "a parasitic race," who are "destroying the fundamentals of this country."
"The Jew has existed for fifty centuries," Hayden said, "and everywhere he's resided he's been expelled." Asked what makes the Jews more insidious than other peoples living in diaspora, Greeks or Armenians, for example, Hayden answered that "the Jews are the most racist of all people." He cited as evidence the Talmud's ancient description of non-Jews as "unclean," and like beasts.
When asked to outline his strategy to end Jewish racism, Hayden replied, "There are two ways they can leave, the peaceful way and the not peaceful way. The choice is theirs." What should they be leaving? "The Earth," said Hayden.
As has become common in recent demonstrations, numerous identity groups were present among the anti-racist activists, (bisexuals, Koreans, etc.), including, on Saturday, a large Arab contingent. They--and many counter-demonstrators--were concerned about the white supremacists' use of momentum against Israel's occupation of Palestine for their own ends.
Jamil Ah Shami, a Palestinian from Ramallah who lives in D.C., said of the fascists, "They are not here to support the Palestinian people. They're here to further their message of hate by linking to the struggles of the Palestinians."
D.C. resident Jennifer Federico said, "I'm here to support my friends who are Palestinian. I support a Palestinian state.... I want to show unity with Palestinians." In general, with banners reading, "Free Palestine. Anti-racists not Anti-semites," and "Israel out of Palestine. Nazis out of D.C.," many counter-demonstrators worked to make clear the distinction between being anti-Israel and being anti-Semitic.
The neo-nazis' attempt to co-opt current movements might be working, however, in some surprising ways. African-American D.C. residents Jalihe Mandrin and Mohammed Bomani, who came out to observe the rally with the hopes of engaging the supremacists in dialogue, seemed unaware that the National Alliance views them as innately inferior and is unwilling to have nonwhites living in white areas.
Mandrin said that though he did not agree with many of the neo-nazis political points of view, he felt that the supremacists "were not really attacking blacks." He added, "I have no problem with people loving themselves and their race. These guys are concerned about the survival of their race."
"They have a reputation because of lynchings that happened in the past. But these guys are more of political activists," Bomani added.
Some Anti-racist activists were disappointed by the turnout on their side, having expected to outnumber the fascists. One DC activist told IMC reporters, "if we had been able to turn out 500 more we could have really kicked ass." When asked if that was necessary, he replied that it was the only way to defeat the fascists. On the other hand, a substantial number of activists, some who spoke out, called for a nonviolent response. Still others weren't sure: Jennifer Federico said of the so-called black bloc's confrontational tactics, "I believe such confrontations are counter-productive. I am for peace and unity. However, I was surprised by my visceral reactions when I saw nazi symbols. I got very angry."
The rally ended with the white supremacists march back to Union Station, while counter-demonstrators were effectively corraled by police into a traffic circle. A white power rock concert was planned later for a secret location. This turned out to be White Marsh, Maryland. The concert was attended by about 125 racists, along with a few protesting anti-racists. (See baltimore.indymedia.org/newswire/display/1449/index.php
for an eyewitness account.)