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Monday, February 23, 2004

Saturday with the Nazis

Saturday, the wife and I went to see the white supremacists hold their rally at the capitol building in downtown Raleigh (photos here). It was scheduled to start at 2:00pm, so we went down around 1:00, got a parking spot and something to eat, then walked up to the spot designated for the counter protest. It was a beautiful day to be outside: 70F, sunny and clear.

By 2:00, hundreds of counter protestors and spectators were surrounding the capitol building, shouting, talking politics, standing siliently, waiting for something to happen, taking pictures, playing drums, etc.. The "Bo Diddley" beat seems to be a favorite of protest drummers, and I got to hear it for nearly three hours. I'm still singing "Not Fade Away" (the Grateful Dead's version from that live album) and "Hand Jive", two days later.

The Black Bloc gang was there, faces covered (sometimes). But they didn't seem to cause too much trouble, aside from a smoke bomb and some pushing and shoving. But even anarchists hate Nazis, and were mostly just waving anti-Nazi signs, instead of trying to bring down the capitalist Big Brother state.

The police maintained a solid line between the protestors and where the Nazis were supposed to be. But, by nearly 3:00 there weren't any Nazis. Were were they? There were certainly no sympathizers in the crowd, though we did see one really old man who looked lost and confused, wearing what looked like a Nazi uniform under his jacket, being escorted around by a couple of cops. Eventually, someone spotted the Nazis and the KKK guys hiding in a parking lot behind a fence where a bunch of dumpsters lived and a hundred or so protestors went over to shout at them - the cops, of course, wouldn't let anyone anywhere near the parking lot, so people had to shout at them from across the street. At some point, the Nazis left the parking lot, though I didn't see how they did it - maybe they were taken in the unmarked police vans I saw near them.

Speaking of cops... there were Raleigh police on foot, on horseback, in cars, vans and helicopters, in riot gear, in plain-clothes and in normal uniforms. There were state police on balconies, on foot, wearing gas masks, behind shields. They weren't taking any chances.

So, there were hundreds of protestors surrounding the capitol when, an hour late, the Nazis, the KKK, and a few friends came marching into view, waving flags (various Nazi flags including a black SS flag with a skull, a 13-star American flag, a couple of different Confederate flags, etc.). All counted, there were maybe 30 of them. When the official press photographers were allowed up near them, they nearly outnumbered the Nazis. And people in the crowd with professional camera equipment probably outnumbered the cops. The photo opportunities were definitely a big draw.

Then the idiots started giving speeches with the PA system they'd set up: the first guy spent some time blaming the Jews for the Iraq war, another tried to make the case for sending black people "back to Africa", etc.. It was hard to hear them, since they were hundreds of feet away and the protestors kept a pretty constant "booo" going. And, we didn't really want to hear what they were saying anyway. So, after a half hour or so of shaking our heads in disgust at what we could hear, we left.

It was nice to see that a gathering of racists would draw a crowd of protestors that outnumbered them by a factor of 20 or so. And, it was a nice day to be outside. So, overall, not a bad way to spend a few hours.

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.