How time flies when you’re spreading hate.
It’s hard to believe – and more than a little sad to realize – that the National Socialist Movement (NSM), currently the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi organization in the United States, has been around now for 40 years, although it started life under a different name.
Notable for its violent anti-Jewish rhetoric and its racist views, the Detroit-based NSM is scheduled to celebrate its anniversary with a rally on the steps of the Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Saturday, April 26. The occasion will also mark the 20th anniversary of the leadership of Jeff Schoep, who renamed the Nationalist Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement when he took over in 1994.
Besides marking its four decades of white supremacy and anti-Semitism, the purpose of the rally is to oppose illegal immigration, according to its successful permit application, the Times Free Press reported today.
NSM has been on an anti-immigrant kick – or goose step – for some time. In November, the group held an anti-immigration rally in Kansas City on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The neo-Nazi rally in Chattanooga comes the day before Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on April 27.
“I am alarmed and disturbed by this,” Rabbi Bill Tepper, of Chattanooga’s Mizpah Congregation, told columnist David Cook of the Times Free Press.
And last March, about 60 Klansmen and NSM members held an anti-immigration rally in a steady rain in downtown Memphis. There was no serious trouble as dozens of police officers in riot gear – some on horseback – kept hundreds of anti-racist demonstrators more than two blocks away from the rally. Meanwhile, the city sponsored a counter event five miles away, celebrating the city’s diversity with food and music.
How Chattanooga will respond to the Nazis coming to town is yet to be seen.
James Mapp, the president of the Chattanooga branch of the NAACP, told Hatewatch today that he has no intention of showing up to protest NSM. He said he plans to ignore the Nazis “100%.”
“They have a right to rally like everyone else,” he said. “But we’d prefer them not to come.”
Besides, he said, he has other issues to worry about, issues that will not leave town when the Nazis do.
“We’re a good town, but there are a lot of problems, too,” Mapp said. “Chattanooga is one of those racist undercover towns. Meaning, on first impression it looks like everything is fine. But when you start looking at the job situation in Chattanooga, at the criminal justice system, you see the unfairness, you see that we have a ways to go.”
Cook, the columnist, told Hatewatch that “people are beginning to study and communicate the best way to handle this.”
“It’s only been 24 hours since most people learned this was happening,” he said. “But I’m 99% sure there will be some response.”
Cook said he expected people will hold a counter-event in another part of the city as anti-racists did in Memphis and Kansas City, but others will undoubtedly want to protest the Nazis as close to the courthouse steps as they can get.
"It’s almost like a car wreck,” he said. “People will show up just to see it.”