Chattanooga residents urged to stay away from Nazi rally

Chattanooga residents urged to stay away from Nazi rally

April 22nd, 2014 by David Cobb in Local Regional News

Members of a neo-Nazi group stage a rally in 2005 in Toledo, Ohio. The same group is planning an event in Chattanooga.

Members of a neo-Nazi group stage a rally...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

With a National Socialist Movement rally at the Hamilton County Courthouse looming, both the movement leaders and the NAACP are encouraging those in opposition to the event to simply stay away.

In a live interview with Brian Joyce on WGOW's "Live & Local" radio show Monday afternoon, NSM commander Jeff Schoep said only those genuinely interested in learning about more about the organization's message should attend the rally, scheduled for 2:30 p.m Saturday.

"We want people to listen with open ears and open minds to what we're saying," Schoep said. "If you're in opposition to us, you shouldn't come down there because there's nothing there for you."

Likewise, the NAACP, citing advice from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is urging people to refrain from contact with the group.

"While we respect the spirit of each individual person's and each group's convictions, the SPLC specifically referenced instances such as the Toledo riot of 2005 as an example of how well-intentioned objectives can take a terrible turn for the worse and often result in arrests, harm and injuries to well-meaning individuals," the NAACP said in its statement.

"The sole objective we all must undertake at this time is to ensure the general safety and welfare of the public at-large, and to see that the presence of these groups in our region occurs 'without incident,'" according to the statement.

But at least one self-proclaimed peaceful rally also scheduled for the courthouse grounds is generating a buzz online.

Organizers of a counter-rally have invited thousands to the courthouse through a Facebook event, and close to 200 people have indicated they plan to attend.

"We are planning a peaceful rally to voice our opinions against the NSM," the event description states. "We can't control every person's actions, but we don't want to fall into their trap of inciting violence."

Schoep said that on-site resistance to NSM gatherings often originates from "the extreme, far left" and emphasized that the group does not align itself with either the right or left.

"There's really not a correct label either way," Schoep said. "The National Socialist Movement takes ... the best of the left and the best of the right."

The Hamilton County Commission granted an assembly permit to the group, described as one of the most prominent neo-Nazi organization in the United States. The group is scheduled to have a private meeting on Friday, followed by the 90-minute rally Saturday. The official purpose of the rally is to protest illegal immigration.

Schoep has estimated that between 50 and 110 people will attend the event.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.