PHOENIX - Two people were arrested and more than a hundred protesters were separated by police Saturday in downtown Phoenix.
The riot happened Saturday afternoon when the National Socialist Movement began its march in support of Arizona’s controversial immigration law.
"This is not what America stands for," said one of the protesters.
"They are not welcome in my country," said another.
ABC15 crews at the march near Jefferson and 8th streets said two dozen neo-Nazis clashed with more than a hundred people who opposed the group.
Police used tear gas to move protesters when rocks were thrown and yelling began between the two groups. Police said several officers and marchers received minor injuries from the rocks and pepper spray.
"You don't have to like us but you can't throw things," said march organizer JT Ready.
At one point, protesters placed newspaper stands in the street in front of the marchers, according to Phoenix police Sgt. Tommy Thompson. He said officers escorted the marchers to the federal courthouse and after several members of the group of marchers made statements, they returned to 12th Avenue and Adams Street, again escorted by police.
"Whether we agree with them or not we have to protect the marchers," Thompson said.
Thompson said two people were arrested for throwing rocks during the march. He did not immediately have their names.
PHOENIX - The National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi group in the United States, has been marching and rallying against illegal immigration in front of the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Court Building in downtown Phoenix since about 12:45 p.m. Saturday. But it’s the counter-protesters who have been receiving negative attention from law enforcement.
The NSM members, carrying American flags partially covered in swastikas, were chanting nearly unintelligible rhetoric protesting the gutting of SB 1070 inside the police-protected area near the courthouse at 401 W. Washington St.
Two arrests were made. Officers said they arrested the two protesters for throwing rocks at them.
Making the neo-Nazi agenda difficult to hear were the numerous counter-protester groups assembled outside of the courthouse perimeter. Some of the protesters included clowns, anti-Neo-Nazis, workers' groups, anarchists, anti-SB1070 groups and Code Pink Women for Peace.
Members of some of those groups blocked the road at 8th Avenue and refused to leave. That’s when law enforcement used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. At that time, there were no arrests.
The rally was scheduled to end at 3 p.m., but as of 4 p.m., more counter-protesters were gathering. The rally did wind down shortly before 5 p.m.
Law enforcement officers wearing gas masks and counter-protesters wearing bandannas covering their noses and mouths were evidence of the purple tear gas also being used during the rally by Phoenix police in riot gear who were trying to push back both protesters and anarchists.
Numerous protesters were dousing their eyes with bottles of a white solution and water to try to counteract the effect of the gas. One woman screamed that she needed to go to the hospital because she could only see out of one eye.
Angry protesters were also seen throwing rocks after the neo-Nazis insulted them.
Police formed a barricade and protesters lined up behind newspaper dispensers.
According to a NSM news release, on Nov. 7, 2009, NSM first marched and rallied at the Arizona capitol and has been holding events since then, to help increase awareness of the problems of illegal immigration in America. The organization has also conducted often simultaneous observational border patrols in California and Arizona, with the goal of documenting specific issues in the problem.
Yesterday, members of the Neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement gathered in front of the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Court Building in Phoenix, AZ to protest a federal judge’s decision to block several provisions of the state’s controversial immigration law, SB-1070. Pollice had to interfere with tear gas and pepper spray when a group of counter-protesters clashed with the neo-Nazi march.
Yesterday’s march is yet another example of the increasing participation of white supremacist groups in the SB-1070 immigration debate. This past summer, the East Valley Tribune reported that that “[w]hite supremacist activity is on the rise in Arizona.” Bill Straus of the Anti-Defamation League said of SB-1070, “It does seem like the distance between what most of us would consider the extreme fringes of political thought and the mainstream of political thought, it seems like that distance has shrunk.”
It’s not surprising that SB-1070 has attracted extremism. The lawyers who are credited with authoring it are employed by an organization that has reportedly accepted $1.2 million in donations from the Pioneer Fund, “a foundation established to promote the genes of white colonials.” The law’s sponsor, state Rep. Russell Pearce (R-AZ), has faced criticism in the past for cozying up to local neo-Nazis. He even endorsed one of “Arizona’s leading neo-Nazis,” J.T. Ready, when the he ran for City Council in the spring of 2006.
Meanwhile, a recent poll revealed that many Arizonans think the immigration debate has “exposed a deeper sense of racism in our community.”