'Clown protest' organized to counter Nov. 10 rally
Originally published: Nov. 1, 2012, 1:27 p.m.
Updated: Nov. 4, 2012, 9:57 a.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A national neo-Nazi hate group has announced its plans to hold a Nov. 10 rally against illegal immigration in downtown Charlotte.¬†The event by the National Socialist Movement, a Southern Poverty Law Center-documented hate group led by Jeff Schoep, comes just a few weeks after another hate group leader addressed audiences in Charlotte.
The National Socialist Movement announced the event in October. A picket notice submitted by a local member of the group to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was finalized on Sept. 27. In it, the group says it will begin a picket at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at E. 3rd and S. Davidson Sts. at 3 p.m. and then march up S. Davidson St. for a rally at Old City Hall. The group says media “meet-and-greet” and private party for supporters will follow.
Police spokesperson Rob Tufano declined to offer any details on police planning for the protest.
“I‚Äôm not going to comment on the number of staff we‚Äôll have available, but will say our officers will be prepared for the event,” said Tufano.
Local community members, meanwhile, are planning to counter-protest the Nazi rally. Lacey Williams, who works as organizer with the Latin American Coalition, announced via Facebook on Friday that she would hold a clown protest during the neo-Nazi group’s event. She is encouraging community members to come to the event dressed as clowns.
“We can’t let folks like this come to town without addressing it,” she said. The clown costumes are meant, Williams said, to “show them as they are.”
“Groups like these are fringe groups,” she said. “If we hit them back seriously, it gives them more credence. Groups who have ideologies like they have, there are fringe people who subscribe to that but they don’t have a space in true civic discourse. What we have to be able to do is show these people for what they are. They are clowns and they make a mockery of civic discourse. They have no place in civilized society. Groups that uphold white supremacy as a core part of who they are, they are outdated. They were wrong back then and they are wrong now.”
Williams said she hopes to turn out as many as 100 counter-protesters. “Even if we only get 50 people, we’ll be able to definitely outnumber them and show that people who think this is unreasonable outnumber those people who think it is reasonable. That’s what I really want to demonstrate through this,” she said.
The National Socialist Movement has long been tracked by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the center, the National Socialist Movement has its historic roots in the original American Nazi Party, founded in 1959. Leadership changed hands in 1967 after its founder was murdered by a follower. In 1994, current leader Jeff Schoep took the reins and renamed the group. The group’s carefully-planned protests and rallies have caused riots. The group once protested in full Nazi Brownshirt uniforms but now uses black “Battle Dress Uniforms.”
The National Socialist Movement is the largest neo-Nazi hate group in the U.S. It has 57 chapters in 39 states, including a statewide chapter in North Carolina. Local leader Frederick Cook, a self-titled “S.S. Sergeant,” told qnotes on Thursday that the Charlotte rally is one of two national gatherings the group holds each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.Schoep’s and the National Socialist Movement’s visit to Charlotte marks the second time within a month that a hate group has visited the Queen City. In mid-October Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, also named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, held two events in the city. Some of those events were attended by local elected officials, including Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Harold Cogdell, County Commissioner Vilma Leake and the city’s first and only openly LGBT official, Charlotte Councilmember LaWana Mayfield. Each have each declined to publicly condemn Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT comments, though Mayfield’s repeated refusals after saying Farrakhan was “doing God’s will” have stirred the most controversy among LGBT community members. An Oct. 20 message against discrimination to Mayfield’s Facebook followers was revealed to the newspaper on Friday. All three politicians have yet to respond to renewed requests for comment via email on Thursday following news of the upcoming neo-Nazi event.
Counter-protest organizer Williams said she understands the nuance involved in addressing differing groups like Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and the National Socialist Movement. Still, she hopes community leaders will speak out when they have the opportunity.
“If you consider yourself a leader in the community then you have to stand up against injustice when and where it happens and do it equally for people who politically oppose you and for people who may politically agree with you,” she said.
qnotes reached out to Schoep on Thursday. A voicemail left for him was returned on Friday by a National Socialist Movement official who declined to reveal his name. In a voicemail to this writer, the official said they would offer no interview.
“We’re not going to do anymore interviews, period, with any homosexual newspaper writers. Ain’t gonna happen,” the caller said. “As far as I’m concerned, you guys can just keep bending each other over and giving each other your anal induced death syndrome disease and live a very slow, painful suffering life for all I care, until you meet your maker. And you know what it says in the Bible about homosexuals. If you don’t you might want to read about it because I don’t think the direction you’re going to be going in or staying in is up there in the Kingdom of God, so I hope you have a fireproof suit to take with you.”
On Saturday, a North Carolina group calling themselves the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based out of Eden, N.C., announced they would join the Nov. 10 rally.