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Fights Break Out At Neo-Nazi Rally In Orlando
POSTED: 2:44 pm EST February 25, 2006
UPDATED: 10:11 pm EST February 25, 2006
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two opposing groups hurled insults at each other across police barricades Saturday during a tension-filled neo-Nazi rally that culminated in 17 arrests.
Clad in khaki uniforms, tall black boots and red arm patches bearing swastikas, about 30 members of the National Socialist Movement were barricaded on one side by SWAT team members.
On the other side, a group of black-clad counter-demonstrators, many covering their faces with black masks, held anti-Nazi signs.
Several counter-demonstrators were arrested before the march officially began when pockets of violence erupted, police said.
A total of 17 people were arrested Saturday, including 14 members of out-of-town groups such as the Skinheads Against Racial Prejudices and the Southeastern Anarchist Network were arrested, said Orlando Police spokeswoman Barb Jones.
All faced charges including disorderly conduct, battery on a law enforcement officer and wearing a mask, police said.
No members of the Minneapolis-based National Socialist Movement were arrested, police said. A spokesman for the neo-Nazi group said they were protesting crime in Orlando.
During the march, the group held signs bearing slogans such as "White People Unite." Later, they made Nazi salutes at the federal courthouse as a SWAT team separated the white supremacists from a jeering crowd.
About 500 spectators and counter-demonstrators followed the group through Parramore, a historically black Orlando neighborhood. Grandparents held the hands of their grandchildren as they watched the march from the front of their homes.
"The older generation grew up seeing hate. They grew up seeing these kinds of groups being open and I think for some African-Americans they want the younger generations to see that hate still exists," said the Rev. O'Hara Black of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.
But other Parramore residents felt the march was a personal affront.
"For them to come into our neighborhood it's wrong, it's a slap in the face," said Donnell Jones, 33.
Art Litka and his family pinned large, yellow stars of David to their shirts in what they called a silent protest against the neo-Nazi group.
"There's anger and disgust," said Litka, 58. "This is an outrage that this kind of demonstration has to occur."
Before the rally, authorities encouraged counter-demonstrators to stay home, hoping to avoid the violence that occurred when the same group marched through Toledo, Ohio, in October. A riot ensued, during which protesters threw rocks at police and burned down a bar.
About 300 law enforcement officers, including K-9 units and officers on horses, patrolled Saturday's rally, Jones said.