The National Socialist Movement (NSM), the largest openly neo-Nazi organization in the United States, will hold a rally in Claremont on March 19. The protest, part of NSM’s “Reclaim the Southwest” campaign, is billed as an anti-immigration rally.
The organization announced the rally March 1 in a video posted on its website. Two days later, a group of 5C students and members from the Claremont community began meeting to organize an anti-Nazi march in protest of the event.
“These are people who are coming from outside and invading our community, so our community needs to stand against them,” said Cameron, a Mt. San Antonio College student involved with the planning of the counter-protest, who requested that his last name be withheld. “It’s our responsibility to show that these are people who do not live here; they’re coming from the outside, and we don’t support their rhetoric.”
Jeff Hall, NSM Regional Director of the Southwest States, said he views the situation differently.
“The idea [for the rally] and a lot of the organizing was actually put together by Claremont residents, some of our members who live in the area,” he said. “Of course, Claremont is known for its colleges and a lot of the students take part in what they call ‘pro-democrat’—but is really ‘pro-open border’—rallies. Other residents of Claremont want their say.”
Hall said that NSM would hold their rally from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, along Foothill Blvd. He said he is expecting about 40 NSM members at the rally, along with additional supporters. NSM has not requested a permit and is not required to have one as long as they stay on sidewalks and continue moving as “foot traffic,” the Claremont Police Department (CPD) said in a statement.
According to Hall, the NSM rally is a response to increased anger over U.S. immigration policies.
“We’re of course against illegal immigration,” he said. “I’ll tell you what, amnesty for one group of people, for Central and South Americans only, is actually a racist bill. You never hear about amnesty across the board. What about the Irish? If they overstay their visa they get deported, but you never hear about amnesty for them or for any European people. It’s only for the illegal aliens. That is truly a racist bill that the students of Claremont often go out in the streets and rally in favor of.”
“We’re all going to begin as an anti-hate rally in the park, and then move to wherever [the NSM members] are at the time,” said one Upland resident and anti-Nazi organizer who preferred to remain anonymous. The counter-protest group decided that it would meet at 10 a.m. on March 19 at Memorial Park, on the corner of Indian Hill Blvd. and 8th Street, in response to the NSM rally.
Pomona College’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics Michael Teter said that the NSM rally was brought up during a recent class discussion of the first amendment.
“It was interesting getting the students’ response,” he said. “There was debate, but for the most part students suggested it’s better to let them just march without a response because NSM is all about creating that agitation and heated engagement.”
Teter suggested that NSM benefits from a confrontation because it raises awareness of their existence and supplies material for its website’s promotional videos.
“They want to be confronted; they want to be challenged and bother people because they know that theirs is a minority viewpoint,” he said. “On the other side though, people who protest against them want to make sure that those who NSM is targeting know that NSM is a minority and the community does not support their ideas.”
This was precisely the argument put forth by Josh, a first-year Pitzer student who plans to protest the NSM rally, at a counter-protest meeting at the 5Cs last weekend. Josh asked his last name be withheld.
“[NSM’s] message is just really hateful,” he said. “They’re angry about immigration and say it’s about jobs. They’re in favor of the Arizona anti-immigration law and have put forward a constitutional amendment that uses the word ‘alien’ repeatedly, but they don’t have any real plan to address the grievances they have besides a racist agenda based on running out the Jews, Mexicans, and African-Americans. It’s a largely white, protestant, male group that is afraid of heterogeneity. There’s no reasoning with them.”
One Claremont resident, a professor at Cal State San Bernardino who plans to attend the counter-march, added that one of the anti-NSM group’s goals is to keep the community informed about the rally.
“[NSM members] come into communities and try to catch [those communities] off guard,” the resident said. “I don’t want to see Nazis in Claremont, or anywhere in the world, and I’m sure my neighbors and friends feel the same way, so we have to let them know.”
The anti-NSM group has attempted to make residents aware of NSM’s racially charged ideology by printing flyers with inflammatory language taken from NSM’s 25 Point Party Thesis, which is available at nsm88.org.
“We demand that all non-Whites currently residing in America be required to leave the nation forthwith and return to their land of origin: peacefully or by force,” states one of these points.
“The leaders of the movement promise to work ruthlessly—if need be to sacrifice their very lives—to translate this program into action,” states the document, in bold red letters, at the end.
At the counter-protest meeting last Saturday, citizens discussed how they would conduct the March 19 action.
“We want it to be a fun activity,” Cameron said. “We invite all to bring musical instruments, noisemakers, to dance and have fun in the face of something terrible. We have to laugh in the face of danger.”
While both sides emphasized maintaining peaceful marches, Hall emphasized that NSM would not back down if confronted by the counter-march.
“We’re not coming out for any confrontation; however, we will not back down,” he said. “We’re coming out here to support our membership in Claremont as they exercise their right to free speech. However, for every action there is a reaction, and we will defend ourselves.”
Teter noted that rallies of this type get at the heart of the first amendment debate.
“What NSM is doing is at that unfortunate crossing between valuing the first amendment, while at the same time respecting people’s rights to not have an antagonistic message directed at them in violent ways,” he said.
“They can express their right to free speech… [but] we’re going to express ours louder,” Cameron added.