COLUMBIA – A spring day in downtown was anything but pretty, but aside from a few arrests, peace prevailed as neo-Nazis marched, and then left town.
The scene was intense along the parade route.The neo-Nazis started marching at 1:00 p.m.
The sidewalks were packed with shouting people, but most remained peaceful, with the exception of two skirmishes. Hundreds of people were drawn to the streets of downtown Columbia because of the march. Some bystanders expressed anger towards the neo-Nazis while others were there in support of the marchers.
Inside the Hitt Street garage, the group organized. As the National Socialist Movement members marched forward they looked to what they saw as local supporters.
“The turnout seems to be pretty good,” said Steve Boswell an NSM member. “We’ve gotten tremendous support from the people of Columbia already and the white students of MU.”
Once on the streets of downtown, the group shouted its message.
“We are campaigning for office. We are serious about what we believe. We believe America is the greatest country in the world,” said members.
Most of the people lining the sidewalks downtown Columbia were anything but supporters and members of the community chose different ways to show their opposing views.
“They want us to feed into the negativity,” said Ashley Yates of the Legion of Black Collegians. “They want us to feed hate with hate, and I’m not here to feed hate and my fist in the air means power to everybody.”
This on-the-move shouting match was just that for the most part, but some went too far. In two skirmishes, police in riot gear warned they’d use pepper spray and they did. Police arrested those who became violent or stood in the way.
Shortly after the march the group left town heading south to what they called a private party east of Jefferson City.
Columbia police say officers arrested seven people Saturday on charges ranging from trespassing and resisting arrest to assaulting a police officer.
The National Socialist Movement claims to be the largest and most active socialist group in the nation.Police in Toledo blame members of the movement for mass riots there in 2005. More than two dozen neo-Nazi protesters marched in a racially diverse neighborhood resulting in fires and looting.
The group is planning what it’s calling its largest demonstration yet next month in South Carolina.The topic is illegal immigration, and the socialist movement recently announced John Bowles, the group’s leader, as a presidential candidate for 2008.