View Full Version : Neo-Nazis Retreat Early, Swamped By Critics, Police

02-26-2006, 05:04 PM
Neo-Nazis retreat early, swamped by critics, police



April Hunt | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted February 26, 2006

More than 500 counterprotesters held back by 300 police officers drowned out the message of a neo-Nazi group that marched through Orlando's historic black Parramore neighborhood Saturday.

Twenty-two members of the National Socialist Movement, some wearing khaki uniforms with swastika armbands, finished their march with a rally outside the federal courthouse that could not be heard over the jeering crowd.

The group shut down the rally 90 minutes early and left town.

Seventeen people were arrested, all of them from the crowd separated from the neo-Nazis by lines of police in riot gear.

Police and civic leaders expressed pride that the event ended without the violence some had feared.

"I've lived here since 1944, and I've never been more proud of Orlando, Orange County and Central Florida," said former legislator Alzo J. Reddick, one of the organizers of the Be Cool campaign that urged residents to ignore the march and the rally.

The police protection made it impossible to interview the neo-Nazi members, but organizers said last week the event was designed to highlight crime as a "race problem."

Some members of the neo-Nazi group carried signs saying "White people unite" and "white pride."

The counterdemonstrators responded with insults and signs of their own, including "No Nazis in Orlando" and "Greet hate with love."

Community leaders and police officials feared that the neo-Nazi march would fuel a riot, as it did last year in Toledo, Ohio.

In that incident, more than 100 people were arrested when counterdemonstrators clashed with police on Oct. 15. Twelve officers were injured.

No officers were hurt Saturday. Orlando police arrested 17 people in the crowd of counterprotesters, including four juveniles, on charges ranging from wearing a mask on a public way to one charge of battery of a law-enforcement officer.

Police said 14 of those arrested were affiliated with an anti-fascist anarchist group. One person was arrested after getting into a fistfight with other counterdemonstrators.

"You could not have asked for a better outcome," said Orlando Police Chief Mike McCoy.

"I have never seen Orlando come together like they did for this."

The chief said it cost "tens of thousands" to staff the event with about 300 officers from several agencies, including the Orange and Osceola sheriffs' offices.

The heavy police presence included officers on horseback and a SWAT team.

Some residents and leaders ignored the event and attended a memorial to Coretta Scott King in Eatonville.

Organized in response to the march, the memorial to the wife of civil-rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. drew more than 125 people.

"If you focus on the negative, you miss all the positive around you," said Betty Covington, a technology manager from Orlando who attended.