Neo-Nazis, KKK outnumbered by counter-protesters in Charlotte

Police: No arrests at raucous but peaceful rally

Counter-protesters behind a police barricade deride members of neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups that gathered in Uptown Charlotte on Saturday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As many as 250 counter-protesters flocked to Old City Hall in Uptown Charlotte today to demonstrate against a neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan rally meant to protest undocumented immigration. Organizers of the counter-protest say they wanted to take a stand against hate.

The rally was planned by the Detroit, Mich.-based National Socialist Movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center has long tracked the group, which it says is the largest neo-Nazi organization in the country. Members of the Eden, N.C., Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan joined the neo-Nazi event.

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Some counter-protesters were organized by the Latin American Coalition. They wore clown costumes in an attempt to ridicule the hate group members’ messages.

“The hate-based views of the [National Socialist Movement] and KKK have no place in our multicultural society or in our nation’s civilized discourse,” a press release from the Latin American Coalition read. “While we acknowledge their First Amendment right to speak freely, we believe that hate and hate-speech should never go unchallenged. We choose not to be silent and to battle their hatred with humor. And clown noses.”

Coalition Organizer and Youth Coordinator Lacey Williams said it was important for her to stand up.

“If hate comes to our community, it should never go unchallenged,” she said. “It’s important to come out here and show that their message is not one that is going to be tolerated in our community.”

She disagreed with some perspectives that said protesting the rally simply gave the neo-Nazi and KKK groups a bigger voice.

“If we take them seriously and we meet hate speech with hate speech and anger with anger, then I think we elevate their platform,” Williams said, “but right now what we’re doing is we’re just drowning out everything that they have to say. Passers-by can’t even hear what the neo-Nazis want to express to the community. They can only hear us and our noisemakers.”

Phyllis Jones also attended the counter-protest. A 72-year-old African-American woman, she is originally from Virginia but now lives in Charlotte. She said she remembers a time when beliefs expressed by the hate groups on Saturday were more commonplace and racial prejudice and hate were written into the law.

“It is important for people my age to be out here because we’re not going to have it again,” she said. “I don’t know how they came here or why they came here, but the Klan is dead, really. I counted how many people are out there and it’s less than 50 people out there, so they have no power. We’re going to drown them out.”

Jones said she also felt like police officers at the event were upset by the hate groups’ messages. “Look at the police,” she said. “I watched the expressions on their face. I hate that they have to stand up here like this, but I can tell they are against this group, too.”

The rally and the counter-protest were both peaceful, though some independent counter-protesters who didn’t come with the Latin American Coalition did get heated and hurled expletives, slurs and threats at members of the hate groups. Other media outlets have reported that Occupy Charlotte and other protest groups were responsible for the additional counter-protesters. When asked by qnotes, none of the independent counter-protesters identified themselves as being a part of an organized group.

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Several of those counter-protesters also threw small sticks and other items at National Socialist Movement leader Jeff Schoep as media attempted to interview him.

“We’re not concerned about violence,” Schoep told media. “We’ll defend ourselves pure and simple. If the police weren’t here, I don’t think the anarchists would be so brave and emboldened.”

Schoep said his group is a “white civil rights organization,” despite its classification as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We’re here in defense of white America today and standing up against illegal immigration on behalf of white civil rights,” he said. “We stand in defense of white people all over the country.”

He said he wanted his group to be a “third-party alternative” and said neither Republicans nor Democrats were helping the country.

“We want to give them another option. National Socialism is that option,” Schoep said. “Obama or Romney, it doesn’t matter,” Schoep said. “It’s the same puppet masters pulling the strings.”

Several counter-protesters attempted to block police and members of the hate groups as they were being escorted away from the rally. Some chose to lie down on the street. Others linked arms. Sections of S. Davidson St., E. 4th St. and S. McDowell St. were closed to vehicular traffic as the hate group members, police and counter-protesters spilled over the sidewalk. Despite the attempted disruptions, police say they issued no citations or arrests.

According to the Southern Poverty Law 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 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. A local leader of the group told qnotes that the Charlotte rally is one of two national gatherings the group holds each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.

The neo-Nazi and KKK rally comes nearly one month after Louis Farrakhan, also documented as a hate group leader by the Southern Poverty Law Center, visited Charlotte for a speech at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church and a Bojangles’ Coliseum rally which attracted 6,000. Several elected officials and other leaders, including Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, came under scrutiny after attending those events. The city’s first and only openly LGBT elected official, Mayfield attended the Little Rock speech where she tweeted Farrakhan was “doing God’s will.” She’s since declined repeated requests by this newspaper to go on-record with a statement condemning anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT hatred.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

13 Replies to “Neo-Nazis, KKK outnumbered by counter-protesters in Charlotte”

  1. Glad to see the NSM and their pathetic redneck running buddies so massively outnumbered. I’m certain that it didn’t make a dent in the views of the NSM and its supporters, but it is good for the community to see the breadth and diversity of opposition to such open, vile bigotry that usually gets expressed more covertly.

    I do want to say one thing though: I’m not a follower or even a supporter of Louis Farrakhan, but to equate what he is about and what he represents with neo-Nazism–and beyond that, to start some kind of campaign against a public official for expressing fairly tepid support for Farrakhan’s organization–is seriously misdirected and wrong. Putting the NSM and Farrakhan in the same article as though they were similar phenomena is frankly absurd.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Scott! We love discussion on our articles. Glad to have you.

      Just one small response re: Farrakhan. Both Nation of Islam and the National Socialist Movement are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. We addressed the complexities, however, in our first article regarding that controversy.

      An excerpt:

      Farrakhan’s place in American history is complex. He rose to power in the Nation of Islam in 1977. He’s been credited with providing positive leadership for urban African-American men and providing an identity of solidarity within the African-American community after centuries of oppression and decades of tumultuous civil rights struggles.

      The Southern Poverty Law Center even acknowledges that racism, where it exists within black separatist groups like the Nation of Islam, “is, at least in part, a response to centuries of white racism.” Still, the SPLC says “it believes racism must be exposed in all its forms.”

      “White groups espousing beliefs similar to black separatists would be considered clearly racist. The same criterion should be applied to all groups regardless of their color,” the group says on its website. “If a white group espoused similar beliefs with the colors reversed, few would have trouble describing it as racist and anti-Semitic. Although the racism of a group like the Nation may be relatively easy to understand, if we seek to expose white hate groups, we cannot be in the business of explaining away the black ones.”

      Rawls is understanding of the concerns and stands solidly opposed to hate.

      “I stand strongly in support of the Jewish community and against anti-Semitism and stand strongly in support of gay, lesbian, bi and trans and the right for gay couples to marry,” she said. “I do not support the way that anybody uses their power and a position in any way to harm any population.”

      Yet, given Farrakhan’s history within the African-American community, it is hard to dismiss him entirely.

      “For many in the black community, that is a place that we are able to learn how to as responsibly as possible grapple and own the need to hold our sisters and brothers accountable in whatever way is deemed appropriate and also make sure that the baby is not thrown out with the bath water where there are points of intersectionality where we can work together.”

  2. As a white person, I feel absolutely no need for defense by the KKK or any other such group. Latinos are not the only people who immigrate here, and white people are not the only race represented among American citizens. And on average I have been treated far better by people of color than by other whites, though I could argue I hardly earned it except that all people deserve decent treatment until proven otherwise.

    I’d like to know where the white supremacist groups were when my longtime-American-citizen people were being oppressed by English-speakers and forced to learn English even though we had functioned just fine as French-speakers for generations before my grandparents’ time (when this all occurred). Never mind that our French-speaking came in awfully handy during World War II over in the European theater. And guess who did that to us, who destroyed us culturally? Other white people.

    It’s not about skin color. It’s about a certain attitude, and I perceive the KKK as possessing that attitude that they want to destroy everything that is not like themselves. These pathetic wastes of skin and oxygen were committing assault, rape, and murder back when the government let them get away with it. I never want this country to see those days again.

    1. I agree with you and it brings me joy to know that not everyone that is White is racist. There needs to be more people with the same mindset as you. Everyone is equal and no matter the tone of our skin, we all are anatomically the same! Shame on the KKK. God Bless you!

  3. [Ed. Note — Readers are encouraged to see the comment from editor Matt Comer following after this comment from Dana. All views are welcome here, but not willful misrepresentations or factual inaccuracy. Dana’s accusations and insinuations below are patently false. Both the NSM and KKK are referred to as “hate groups” several times throughout all stories written on this issue.]

    I would also like to point out that Qnotes has failed to refer to the KKK as a hate group even though they referred to Louis Farrakhan as a hate leader in a link to another article. The only times the KKK are referred to as a hate group here are when they are so labeled by individuals quoted in the piece. In other words the author himself does not do so. Curious.

    Mr. F has indeed said many hateful things, but he’s also never denied white people the vote, cut open a pregnant white woman and stomped the fetus to death on the ground, or removed a white man from his jail cell to hang him from a tree outside when he hadn’t even been convicted of a crime. The KKK, and white racists generally, have done all these things to American blacks.

    There’s inflammatory speech, and then there’s real hate.

    1. Dana, our reporting has been clear. We referred to both the NSM and KKK groups as “hate groups” several times throughout all of our stories on this issue. However, in case you missed it, we’ll be more clear: The Ku Klux Klan is clearly a hate group. Everyone knows it. History records it. It is plainly obvious.

      Your views are welcome here, but not willful misrepresentations and insinuations.

      It might be helpful if you also read our latest editorial, “Our job is to report.”

  4. I wish no one had shown up or even acknowledged that the idiots were there. Silence would’ve been the most effective protest. These jerks wanted publicity & they were given it. Protestors & media publicity. They were shown on TV! They got exactly what they wanted…spoon fed it really. On the same day as the Veterans Day parade. The protestors should’ve spent their protest time showing support for our country, freedom, & equality some other way. I hate to say it but they stooped to the Nazi’s level. Can’t fight fire with fire on this one. Should’ve fought it with serene water…would’ve put the fire out!

  5. I agree with Aimee. Ignorance loves attention.

  6. (Moderators: I don’t know if we are allowed to discuss such things on a mainstream media website but I’ll put this out anyway. At least one of you guys will see it.)

    I’m glad to see that not all whites are in favor of the mixed world that the mainstream media and movies push for ever more frequently.

    I used to hate Nazi’s, Klansmen and Black Muslims too. Then I started reading what they really had to say about race and culture (not just what the mainstream media said about them.)

    If you feel bold, you should read the information on stormfront.org and vnnforum.com, read up on Louis Farakhan and the Nation of Islam and compare it to the information on the Southern Poverty Law Center website and the Anti Defemation League website.

    The Nazis, Klan and Nation of Islam are extreme indeed but their anger is not something they were born with. They claim that their various groups are getting a raw deal from the so called Elite class of society and their anger is a reaction to that.

    The vast majority of their members are not the monsters that they are portrayed as.

    All three believe in a different version of history than is currently taught in schools in the USA.

    1. The fact that you just said “the mixed world” as some sort of negative fact, without it being a joke of some sort, shows that you’re a complete idiot.

  7. Hi, I’m one of the organizers, and I have to disagree with Aimee and Derek. Though the event has now received quite a bit of media coverage, it’s all about our protest and how we refuse to accommodate racist views here in Charlotte, which is essential. We did consider holding a separate event, or not going at all; however, if we as a community were willing to ignore this event, then it would be going unchallenged. Instead, we decided to make a creative statement that shows the strength, diversity, and sense of humor of Charlotte.

    I certainly disagree that we stooped to the Nazis’ level — in fact, that’s patently ridiculous. But I’d point out that by standing up for equality, we did something just as essential as supporting our veterans (which many of us have done in other ways).

    And — they would have been shown on TV no matter what. Don’t be naive.

  8. hi,

    please manipulate the picture of the antifascist protesters, so that the persons not seem realy to good for the anti-antifa and rightwing counters. thanks

    take care – safe life

  9. I want to thank Jess George and the Latin American Coalition for standing up to these hate groups!

    Our society has no place for their racist ideology.

Comments are closed.