Outnumbered by Protesters, Nazis Rally on Capitol Steps

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

After a lawsuit, threats and hours of planning... The Nazi rally on the Capitol building Saturday was a mostly peaceful event.

The Nazis -- members of the National Socialist Movement -- arrived by bus, under escort from Michigan State Police. They carried signs, flags, wore uniforms and chanted slogans.

As the rally got underway, those slogans were met in kind by chants from protesters -- separated from the Nazis by a chain link fence.

The rally itself featured anti-semitic rhetoric from the National Socialists. But the Nazis also tried to convey a political message. The group says it's begining to field candidates for public office here in Michigan and across the state.

"We are looking to elect a president that will close our borders. (But why Michigan?) You have an immigration problem here, do you not?" National Socialist Commander Jeff Schoep told reporters before the rally.

Leaders say more and more are joining their group. But they refused say just how members they have or how much they've grown.

Roughly 75 members of the National Socialist Movement got off the buses and rallied on the Capitol steps. Police estimate roughly 500 to 600 people met them -- either in support or protest.

Of that number, only a handful were supporters. Most gathered were against the group, including Janet Okagbue of Okemos -- and her daughter.

"So we could see just how ridiculous these people were," Janet Okagbue said.

"It's good so we can show them they're not wanted," Sasha Okagbue, her daughter, said.

The city had encouraged would-be protesters to attend a city-sponsored diversity rally. Most who chose to confront the Nazis instead were younger.

"Everybody over there already knows how everyone feels. Over here, you're taking a stand because you're showing your opposition," MSU student Rachel Grear said.

After the two hour rally, Grear and other protesters moved out of downtown -- some forced away by police.

Hours later, the group "Wash Away the Hate" gathered at the Capitol and physically washed front steps -- a symbolic gesture the group says is needed to cleanse the Capitol of the words spoken earlier.

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