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Neo-Nazis to rally in Claremont Saturday

March 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Outrage this weekend over a planned neo-Nazi rally and counter-protest for peace set for Saturday in and around Memorial Park in Claremont.

Police don't expect clashes between the two groups, but they will be prepared for anything.

The rally has been planned for some time, but once word got out in Claremont, students from the local college planned their own rally for peace and tolerance.

A year and a half ago, a neo-Nazi rally in Riverside disintegrated into violence. It's something organizers with Claremont For Peace are hoping to avoid.

The organizer is a college student who asked that his face not be shown out of fear of retribution.

"We wanted to show that we are looking to promote peace, we're looking to promote multiculturalism, to celebrate the differences rather than to pick on them or single them out," said "Michael," organizer for Claremont For Peace.

The peace rally is a counter to the anti-immigration rally, and will be held a few blocks away.

About 30 members of the neo-Nazi group are expected to turn out.

"We are not looking for any problems, we're coming out to say there is a problem here, we're trying to keep it in the light, the problem with illegal immigration," said Jeff Hall, regional director of the National Socialist Movement.

Hall is in charge of the rally. He says his organization is opposed to the college students' support of the immigrant community. The National Socialist Movement's website says it is about preserving and defending white culture.

"It's not about hate. It's about us identifying with our own culture," said Hall. "I identify with my culture. I am proud to be white. You see T-shirts, 'Brown Pride,' 'Hispanic Pride,' 'Black Pride,' but if you see a white male wearing a 'White Pride' T-shirt, then it's offensive."

Residents and students said the group's message is not welcome.

"The underlying reasons that they're doing this is very hateful," said Michael.

"Just the fact that they're neo-Nazis, I think, makes their argument invalid," said Claremont resident Mia Melle.

"I don't feel that hate speech is free speech or should be given the same respect," said business owner Ellen Chase.

About 500 students and supporters are expected to converge at Memorial Park, about two blocks from the neo-Nazi group is expected to hold its rally.

A strong police presence is expected.