A national park where presidents have spoken was filled with the cries of demonstrators on Saturday, Sept. 25. The National Socialist Party, better known as the Nazi party, held a rally at Valley Forge National Park to voice their beliefs concerning immigration into the United States.
Cabrini students from four different classes, who were originally planning to attend the rally, were urged not to attend late Friday night. Flyers and e-mails were sent out saying that the college had received information that there was a high chance that violence could break out.
Dean of academic affairs Dr.Charles McCormick said the purpose of the Cabrini students’ extra credit assignment was to observe how the media presented the First Amendement background of the right to have a rally. The First Amendement guarantees anyone, including neo-Nazis and KKK members, the right to free speech. According to their website the party is “dedicated to the preservation of our Proud Aryan Heritage.”
The party had several different speakers to belt their beliefs across the historic park. Cmdr. Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement said, “We will lead the charge into the second American Revolution.” According to the NSM the “second American Revolution” will be securing the borders of the United States to make sure illegal aliens do not cross. “America’s southern border is wide open for illegal non-white immigrants and potential terrorists to enter our country. Most if not all White Americans want the flood gates closed,” the NSM said.
Police dressed in riot gear were scattered throughout Valley Forge Park in order to keep the peace between demonstrators. They had to use pepper spray on a group called “Skinhead Against Racial Prejudice.” S.H.A.R.P. was there in order to demonstrate against the NSM. The group does not believe in racism, sexism or homophobia. The demonstration became heated as members of S.H.A.R.P. attacked several people whom they believed to be Nazis. The police quickly took control of the situation and used pepper spray on those causing trouble. Craig Lattera, a gay member of S.H.A.R.P. said, “I’m here to represent anti-hate and these guys are just showing hate by beating people up.”
The police and park guards outnumbered protesters at both sides. Law enforcement was equipped with helicopters, canine units and police on horseback in order to make sure violence did not erupt.
Demonstrators against the Neo-Nazi movement made sure their voices were heard loud and clear. The majority of the time the NSM speakers could not be heard over the shouting of “Nazi scum, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide” from the counter demonstrators.
Several members of the local community were present in order to make sure their opinions were heard. Local resident Casey McCarthy was driving past the park and decided to see what was going on. “I am here with disapproval. I think people have the right to be Nazis, but I’m not sure that they should be allowed to take the demonstrations to public land,” McCarthy said.
The NSM spoke about returning to where the founding fathers fought for independence for America. “The Constitution was written by white men and therefore intended for white men alone,” was shouted by a NSM speaker.
The group chose to hold the rally on the holiest days for members of the Jewish community, Yom Kippur. Samuel Domsky, a demonstrator against the Nazi movement, held a white sign that read “REMEMBER” both in English and in Hebrew. “They have something to say and it happens to be hatred and that’s what happened 70 years ago and I’m here to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Domsky said. He stood proudly near the entrance to the park with his sign in the air. “I respect their constitutional right, but I don’t have to agree with it. That’s the whole point about America. People have to stand up against it, even if it’s just one sign and one person. It’s just like one vote, it can make a difference,” Domsky said.
A second rally, the Valley Forge Rally for Social Justice, was held a little more than a mile away. This rally opposed what it said was the hate-filled message of the neo-Nazis. The rally featured a speech by Mike Berg, the father of Nick Berg, who was beheaded in Iraq. He spoke of the need to put hatred aside. In contrast to the tight security of the neo-Nazi rally, this rally seemed to be more a family picnic, with little children doing cartwheels in the grass and high school students from Westtown Friends School in attendance.
Security at the Nazi rally was tight. A mile-long section of Valley Forge was cordoned off from traffic. Everyone who wished to get near the stage had to walk through a quarter-mile passageway, at the end of which people entering were photographed and passed through metal detectors.
One person was arrested due to a fight in a near by parking lot.
All photos by Cecelia Francisco. Video shot and edited by Shawn Rice. Posted to the Web by Lori Iannella with assistance by Lancaster Phillips and Team Convergence.