Neo-Nazi Rally and Counter-Protest End With Arrests, Some Violence

A rally held on the South Lawn of City Hall yesterday by members of the National Socialist Movement led to small outbursts of violence and drew a large crowd of counter-protesters, of which 5 were arrested.

Even prior to the 12:30 start time of the event held to honor Nazi party founder Adolf Hitler's upcoming birthday, participants from the estimated crowd of 500 counter-protesters attacked a man they believed was a white supremacist because of his tattoos.

A second man, "who carried a confusing sign about religion with a scribbled swastika," was also assaulted by counter-protesters, according to LA Now. Incident Commander David Doan, who spoke to the media after the rally, said he believed neither victims, both of whom were treated and released, were affiliated with the NSM.

The official event got underway at 12:30, when a group of about 40 members of the NSM marched from their gathering place in a nearby parking lot to the South Lawn of City Hall. A permit had been issued in March for the gathering, and despite pleas from members of various community groups, was not halted by Mayor Villaraigosa or other city leaders. The LAPD were present, and on tactical alert during the course of the event, which means that all officers on duty city-wide at the time must remain on shift in case they are needed.

As the NSM members began a return march to the parking lot, angry counter-protesters lobbed rocks, chunks of concrete, bottles, a metal wrench, and other objects at them, aiming in particular at one NSM member's vehicle, which wouldn't start up.

At about 2:30, the police thanked the crowd and asked them to disperse as the event was over and all the NSM members had left, however many people remained on-scene, throwing bottles and rocks at the police and members of the media.

In the aftermath of the event, concerns arose from Los Angeles residents about the financial burden the day placed on the already-strained city budget. In response, Doan commented:

It's certainly frustrating to have to spend the resources to make sure everyone has their First Amendment rights, but our primary responsibility to make sure it's done safely and to keep the peace. And I think we did an outstanding job today allowing some, unfortunately, hateful speech, but that's what the First Amendment is about and allowing the other side being able to express their displeasure in a peaceful way.

A total of 5 arrests were made during the course of the rally and counter-protest, all of whom were members of the counter-protest group. Ultimately, however, Doan viewed the event, and the conduct of the LAPD as successful: "We're very happy with the outcome. People got to be able show their displeasure, the others got the opportunity to say their spiel and very few people were hurt."

With on-scene reporting by Zach Behrens